Cambridge is home to the world’s first physical Raspberry Pi store. We dropped in to find out what it’s all about.
Cambridge, England | A recent trip to the beautiful university city of Cambridge afforded me the opportunity to visit Raspberry Pi’s brand new showroom. Not so much a shopping experience as inspiration for your next Pi project.
The Raspberry Pi Store
1st Floor, Grand Arcade Shopping Centre, 14 St Andrew’s St, Cambridge CB2 3BJ
Situated on the first floor of the Grand Arcade shopping centre in the heart of the city’s retail district, the recently opened store is brightly lit and inviting.
A central island of desks carry, what look like conventional computers, but are in fact Raspberry Pis running the Raspbian operating system. My eight year old daughter, instantly drawn to these, fired up Minecraft: Pi Edition and remained there for the duration of our visit. World building is a priority for her.
Along each side of the store interactive displays of projects built utilising the versatile micro computer. A common first build, for many, is a retro games console. There’s one in store which builds a Raspberry Pi into a robust, tactile controller that emulates the kind of joystick and buttons you’ll find on an arcade cabinet. Naturally you can play on this device too.
For me, inspiration struck in one of the least glitzy displays in-store. A smart mirror. I’d already decided that my next Pi build would be something along the lines of Magic Mirror built by Michael Teeuw, so to see something similar in person allowed me to visualise more clearly what I’d want mine to look like.
I had envisioned my mirror as little more than a customisable display that would help my wife and I remember which of our children had what activity on any given school day. Time and weather information, and perhaps the news headlines should appear on the display too. What I discovered in the Pi Store was that the mirror could encompass so much more if the person constructing was so inclined.
One of the Pi Store team proved very willing to run me through the specifics of the build and explained the further possibilities of a project like this. Face and voice recognition can be added as well as a touch screen interface that could be used to control smart functions within the home.
The guy knew his stuff and led me to the rear of the store where many of the components I’d need to get started with my project are available to buy.
The world’s first Raspberry Pi Store certainly isn’t big, but it does pack in plenty to get your creative juices flowing, which ultimately seems to be the ambition of the company.
It’s hard to imagine that, as a retail outlet, the store will prove to be very profitable. But as a loss leader designed to raise the profile of the world’s favourite micro-computer and to allow enthusiasts a hands-on experience it works very well.
The staff are super-friendly and knowledgeable. The concept of the Raspberry Pi Store feels like a cross between an Apple Store and Games Workshop. A clean minimalist design in a space that can be used for retail and practical application.
It’s a lovely idea. I’m just not sure how much longevity a store like this has, especially when the product has proven so popular, for so long as an almost exclusively online purchase.
The Raspberry Pi Store certainly bucks the current trend for retailers moving away from the high street and solely online by accomplishing the exact opposite.