There are a lot of interesting things you can do with little computers that cost just $35. While you probably wouldn’t think of turning a $350 desktop or laptop computer into a single-purpose machine, there’s not much to lose by converting a computer that costs one tenth the price into a device that does one thing and does it well.
Michael Clemens used a Raspberry Pi as the basis of a device that reads audiobooks out loud at the push of a button. That’s all it does (unless you count pressing the button again to pause audio playback or pressing-and-holding it to skip to the previous track).
The idea was to build a simple device that his wife’s 90-year-old grandmother could use to listen to audiobooks. She’s visually impaired which makes reading and operating electronics difficult.
Clemens put together a system with a button, a Raspberry Pi mini-computer, an SD card, a button, a few resisters, a case, and not much else. He can load books simply by plugging in a USB flash drive and waiting until a status LED stops blinking. The software supports a range of formats including FLAC, MP3, and OGG Vorbis.
Once the device boots up, it starts a script was pauses the audio book. Press the button and it will start playing. The software also remembers the last position, so if you shut down the device instead of just pausing it, you won’t lose your place. But as a low-power device, you could theoretically just leave the audiobook player “on” all the time.