I wrote back in May about a project that was working with the premise of a modestly-functioning computing device that would cost all of $25. The Raspberry Pi project, as its called, is still ticking along, and there’s more evidence that the people involved may get something off the test bench and into the real world.
TechCrunch has a video up about the little single board PC running the multi-player shoot ‘em up game Quake 3, which has some involved graphics and a lot of fast movement. The testing shows this thing – using a Broadcom chip (think set top box) can handle full HD at acceptable frame rates.
This project was started and is intended for lowering the cost of computing for kids in the third world – not so they can play Quake but learn computing skills.
However, anyone in the business of getting video and other visuals out to 1,000s of locations at as low a cost as is possible is undoubtedly fascinated by the idea of dramatically trimming hardware costs. Digital signage media player costs are all over the place, but it is pretty safe to say even the cheapest PCs now cost hundreds of dollars.
The little Raspberry Pis are using ARM (smart phone) processors and running open source software like Ubuntu Linux. The alpha design of the board is about the size of a credit card (which means it could fit in behind any panel).
Really interesting stuff. Without a doubt, a few companies with flexible software will have a crack at making this work as a digital signage player once it comes to market. The final cost would be more than $25 once an enclosure, USB ports, solid state memory and other bits are added, but it would still be crazy-cheap.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.