Hacking An Old Parallel Port Webcam To Work With A Gameduino 2

connecting parallel port web camera to gameduino 2

[Andrew] couldn’t pass up a 20ish year old parallel port based webcam he saw on the shelf at a thrift store. It’s a Connectix QuickCam and was the first webcam that did not require a separate video input card to interface with your computer. Due to this feature, the webcam was extremely popular, so popular that Logitech ended up buying Connectix and marketing the camera for themselves.

It’s tough to find a newer computer that still has a parallel port, but using an old computer wasn’t [Andrew]‘s plan anyways. After thinking about it, he decided to try to get the camera’s image to display on a Gameduino 2.

The hardware list is fairly minimal. The cam’s parallel connector is plugged straight into STM32 Nucleo development board by way of several jumpers. The Gameduino 2 is connected to the dev board and a USB to PS/2 adapter was made to power the camera.

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1980’s Ingenuity Yields Mechanical Intervalometer

DIY Intervalometer

Let’s go back in time to the 1980’s, when shoulder pads were in vogue and the flux capacitor was first invented. New apartment housing was being built in [Vince's] neighborhood, and he wanted some time-lapse footage of the construction. He had recently inherited an Elmo Super-8mm film camera that featured a remote control port and a speed selector. [Vince] figured he might be able to build his own intervalometer get some time-lapse footage of the construction. He was right.

An intervalometer is a device which counts intervals of time. These are commonly used in photography for taking time-lapse photos. You can configure the intervalometer to take a photo every few seconds, minutes, hours, etc. This photographic technique is great when you want see changes in a process that would normally be very subtle to the human eye. In this case, construction.

[Vince] started out by building his own remote control switch for the camera. A simple paddle-style momentary micro switch worked perfectly. After configuring the camera speed setting to “1”, he found that by pressing the remote button he could capture one single frame. Now all he needed was a way to press the button automatically every so often.

Being mechanically minded, [Vince] opted to build a mechanical solution rather than an electronic circuit. He first purchased a grandfather clock mechanism that had the biggest motor he could find. He then purchased a flange that allowed him to mount a custom-made wooden disk to the end of the minute hand’s axle. This resulted in a wheel that would spin exactly once per hour.

He then screwed 15 wood screws around the edge of the wheel, placed exactly 24 degrees apart. The custom paddle switch and motor assembly were mounted to each other in such a way that the wood screws would press the micro switch as they went by. The end result was a device that would automatically press the micro switch 15 times per hour. [Read more...]

A Webcam Based Posture Sensor

Webcam based posture sensor

Even for hobby projects, iteration is very important. It allows us to improve upon and fine-tune our existing designs making them even better. [Max] wrote in to tell us about his latest posture sensor, this time, built around a webcam.

We covered [Max's] first posture sensor back in February, which utilized an ultrasonic distance sensor to determine if you had correct posture (or not). Having spent time with this sensor and having received lots of feedback, he decided to scrap the idea of using an ultrasonic distance sensor altogether. It simply had too many issues: issues with mounting the sensor on different chairs, constantly hearing the clicking of the sensor, and more.  After being inspired by a very similar blog post to his original that mounted the sensor on a computer monitor, [Max] was back to work. This time, rather than using an ultrasonic distance sensor, he decided to use a webcam. Armed with Processing and OpenCV, he greatly improved upon the first version of his posture sensor. All of his code is provided on his website, be sure to check it out and give it a whirl!

Iteration leads to many improvements and it is an integral part of both hacking and engineering. What projects have you redesigned or rebuild? Let us know!

Interactive 3D Projection is Foggy At Best

fog proj

Have a projector and a smoke machine handy? You might want to give this fog projection thing a shot! It’s called the MisTable and it’s a three-dimensional playground for interactive manipulation of images.

It’s a project by Bristol Interaction and Graphics group of the University of Bristol, and it’s an interesting twist on 3D projection. They’ve created what they call the MisTable which features a smoke machine, “smoke screens”, and three projectors. What it results in is an interactive table for two people. The tabletop surface is a display, as is the see through fog in front of each person (the “fog screens”).

While it is fairly easy to understand and explain, there’s a handy diagram after the following break showing how the system works. Our question is, when are one of you guys or gals going to try making one?

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Neo Geo Arcade Gets Second Life with a Raspberry Pi

neo-picade

An old Neo Geo Arcade, a Raspberry Pi, and some time were all [Matthew] needed to build this Pi Powered Arcade Emulator Cabinet.

Neo Geo was originally marketed by SNK as a very expensive home video console system. Much like the Nintendo Play Choice 10, SNK also marketed an arcade system, the MVS. The Neo Geo MVS allowed arcade operators to run up to six titles in a single cabinet. The MVS also allowed players to save games on memory cards.

[Matthew's] cabinet had seen better days. Most of the electronics were gone, the CRT monitor was dead, and the power supply was blown. Aside from a bit of wear, the cabinet frame was solid and the controls were in good shape. He decided it would be a good candidate for an emulator conversion.

We’ve seen some pretty awesome arcade conversions in the past, such as this Halloween rendition of Splatterhouse. For his conversion, [Matthew] stuck to the electronics, leaving most of the old arcade patina intact. The CRT did fire up after some components were replaced. [Matthew] ran into some refresh rate issues with the Raspberry Pi, so he opted to swap it out with a modern LCD monitor. Controls were wired up with the help of an I-PAC board.

[Matthew] had to write a driver to handle the I-PAC, but he says it was a good learning experience. Aside from the LCD screen, the result looks like it could be found in the back of an old bowling alley, or a smokey bar next to Golden Tee. Nice work, [Matthew]!

Magic Screwdriver Decides If You Watch TV Or Not

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Video projectors are great. They can easily produce a very large image to watch. With that large image comes a large screen, and who wants to look at a large screen when not watching TV? Well, [Steve] didn’t either so he set out to make a powered retractable screen for his projector. The best part about this one is that it is done in true DIY/hacker fashion. The parts used are definitely not intended to be used as anything close to a projector screen and the overall cost is kept to an absolute minimum.

[Read more...]

Bookworm Playing Bot Tests Programmer’s OCR Skills

bookworm-bot

Check out this brainy bot with [Jari] whipped up to dominate the Bookworm Deluxe scoreboard. The bot runs on top of a win32 machine, pulling screenshots to see the game board and simulating mouse clicks to play. The video after the jump shows that it plays like a champ, but it took some doing to get this far and [Jari] took the time to share all of the development details.

The hardest part of writing these types of bots is recognizing the game pieces. Check out all of the animation that’s going on in the still shot above… a lot of the tiles are obscured, there are different colors, and the tiles themselves shift as the bot spells and submits each word.

After some trial and error [Jari] settled on an image pre-processor which multiplies pixel values by themselves four times, then looks at each pixel with a 1/6 threshold to produce a black and white face for each tile. From there a bit of Optical Character Recognition compares each tile to a set of known examples. This works remarkably well, leading into the logic and dictionary part of the programming challenge.

Do you think this was easier or harder than the Bejeweled Blitz bot. That one was looking for specific pixel regions, this one is basically a focused roll-your-own OCR script.

 

[Read more...]

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