Smart Projector With Built-in Raspberry Pi Zero

Raspberry Pi Zero smart projector

You’ve heard of smartphones but have you heard of smart projectors? They’ve actually been around for a few years and are sort of like a TV set top box and projector combined, leaving no need for a TV. Features can include things like streaming Netflix, browsing in Chrome, and Skyping. However, they can cost from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars.

[Novaspirit]  instead made his own cheap smart projector. He first got a $70 portable projector (800×480 native resolution, decent for that price) and opened it up. He soldered an old USB hub that he already had to a Raspberry Pi Zero so that he could plug in a WiFi dongle and a dongle for a Bluetooth keyboard. That all went into the projector.

Examining the projector’s circuit board he found locations to which he could wire the Raspberry Pi Zero for power even when the projector was off. He lastly made the Raspberry Pi dual-bootable into either OSMC or RetroPie. OSMC is a Linux install that boots directly into a media player and RetroPie is a similar install that turns your Raspberry Pi into a gaming machine. You can see a timelapse of the making of it and a demonstration in the video after the break.

This isn’t the only cool thing [Novaspirit] has done with one of these $5 Raspberry Pi Zeros. We also saw him turn one into a USB stick for plugging into a laptop, using the USB connection as an Ethernet connection.

16 thoughts on “Smart Projector With Built-in Raspberry Pi Zero

  1. Next steps:
    1) Make the projector remotely controllable as well using its exposed USB/RS232 connection that you can control the projector from
    2) Get VGA out of Pi Zero GPIO and solder it to the possibly unused VGA port from the inside

      1. Quite simple – the VGA is likely to be unused, so you’ll completely free HDMI (that cable stub is fugly, and likely to rip out the projector’s HDMI socket if transported when plugged in. Also, fugly). Also, if you think VGA is shitty and noisy (especially at the projector’s resolution), you obviously buy cheaper cables and hope that an analog signal will work OK with thinner unshielded wires (it won’t). Go get a normal thick cable (with English letters, not hieroglyphs written on it) so you can bust that myth you seem to believe in and relieve your eyes from the strain.

        1. AFAIK the raspberry Pi does not have VGA, it has HDMI and (buried) CVBS video. And that is REALLY shitty and noisy and I would not use it on anything with more than 70cm (not inches) of picture diagonal.

          1. IIRC the VGA from the Pi was basically bit-banged out as fast as possible. Massive hack. Dunno if it’s gonna affect the Pi’s ordinary use, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. Using it for playing video sounds like a lot to ask.

            As far as VGA, it’s noisy and shit compared to HDMI, which is digital-perfect. Running it inside the casing I doubt you could shield it well, and there’s high-speed electronics all round it. Just sounds very sub-ideal. Particularly since the Pi doesn’t really have VGA.

            If you really cared about plugging HDMI in, embed an HDMI switcher in there. Maybe there’s some way to get the Pi to switch it’s HDMI off, to go high-impedance, so you could parallel it with the input socket.

            This is a cheap, virtually a toy, projector anyway, bought just for this project. May as well forget about extra video inputs.

  2. Great idea and I’m sure a lot of DIY’ers are going to go from here on their own to do this very project, but come on…your video is 4:00 long…you spend the first 2:00 talking about projectors and a few other things that have to do with the project, THEN you spend :30 in super fast speed video doing the actual merging of Raspberry Pi Zero and projector, then you spend the rest of the video telling what you would change. Your youtube video doesn’t have links to most of the things you used, nor does it have the wiring diagram (you said it is coming). I’m hoping to see more about this project soon, I plan to make this myself and if I have to figure it all out for myself, I will load up a YouTube video showing the correct way of doing this.

      1. Yes, I actually remembered wanting to do this project and came back to it a few weeks ago and decided to go ahead and make it. To keep from using the HDMI cable as he did (hanging out the back), I bought a Gert VGA666 board from Pi Supply ( and used that for the output. I did not solder the VGA port or the 40 pin standoff…per se.. I did use the 40 pin standoff to solder the two boards together but I snipped the black plastic off after soldering the pins flush with one of the boards and soldered the other board flat on top, then snipped anything left above that board. I had some rainbow cabling left over from some Mini NES’s I was making and used that to connect the VGA port from the Gert VGA board to the VGA port inside the projector. The only thing I did not do that I will be changing is to have a switch mounted to the side of the projector that controls power to the Raspberry Pi Zero so it is not running all the time if I want to use something on HDMI. It works great and will be posting some photos from the inside soon. Sorry I didn’t take any when I was building it, but I was away on vacation and spent a few hours doing this.

  3. Is this using the zero exclusively for height reasons? Every time I see the pi zero I expect to see good applications for a pi without networking, and then they add usb wifi. If it were me I’d use the CHIP because of the similar price point and built-in networking.

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