The great nonprofit that I help out with Open Sourcing Mental Illness has an ever increasing presence at conferences. We’ve been stepping up our booth visibility lately by adding a nice tablecloth as well as the purchase of a TV to have a looping video playing on to lure conference goers to our table. Originally we played video from an iPhone or laptop via an HDMI cable. I thought there would be a better way to accomplish this as well as give us some added flexibility in what we can display while still surviving the always variable conditions that are conference venues.

OSMI Promo Video

The normal venue challenges are network connectivity and power. While I can’t solve the power problem without strapping a generator to the TV we can assume we’ll have power at most events. My immediate solution was to run the video off a Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi is a super cheap computer. Designed to be hackable and open and promote learning it seemed fitting along with OSMI’s goals of promoting open source ideas and philosophies.

It didn’t take long to get a working solution to using the built in media player OMXplayer. I configured the Pi to auto play the video on reboot via a cron task:

@reboot screen -S video -d -m omxplayer /home/pi/osmi-kiosk.mp4 --loop

This tells the pi to play the video in a screen session every time the computer boots up. The video is played from the local filesystem so we can easily update the video by changing the video. The Pi is also mounted to the back of the TV so we can easily remove it and connect it like a normal computer to a keyboard and wireless network to update the video from the device itself.

For our purposes I wanted something really small that would be easily mountable on the back or side of the TV. The Raspberry Pi zero was the perfect choice:

Raspberry Pi Zero in a case

Raspberry Pi Zero in a case

Raspberry Pi Zero closed case

Raspberry Pi Zero closed case

Raspberry Pi Mounted to the back of the TV

Raspberry Pi Mounted to the back of the TV