Build a Google-style panorama rig for $300

PhotoTrail

As part of a “disruptive technologies” course at the United States Military Academy, [Roy D. Ragsdale] produced a working prototype of a Google Street View-like system called PhotoTrail. Like its corporate-backed inspiration, the system captures georeferenced 360-degree panoramas that can be viewed interactively in a web browser…but at a hardware cost of only around $300. [Ragsdale’s] prototype is based entirely on consumer-grade off-the-shelf components and open source software, all tied together by the yin and yang of DIY: foam core board and a few Python scripts.

This article from IEEE Spectrum magazine provides some background on the selection of parts and construction of the system, including a hardware shopping list and a list of links to all of the open source packages used.

The PhotoTrail prototype is surprisingly small and lightweight. A vehicle isn’t even required; the camera array can be carried overhead by a single person, making it possible to capture remote locations. But [Roy] expects future revisions to be even smaller and less obtrusive, perhaps mounted to a headband. Mount Everest awaits!

Flickr photo bike

Lifehacker’s [Gina Trapani] has one of Flickr’s photo bikes and wrote up how it works. As you ride, the bike automatically takes photographs, geotags them, and uploads them to Flickr. The handlebar unit contains a Nokia N95 cellphone. The rear is a solar powered charging unit. It has a custom python script that starts the photo taking sequence when it detects the bike is in motion using the phone’s accelerometer.

Most of the engineering seems to be for usability’s sake. We’re guessing they probably wanted to disguise that they’re bolting a $600 cellphone to a bike as well. Out of the box the Nokia N95 already does almost everything required. It has a 5 megapixel camera with an interval timer that can vary from 10 seconds to 30 minutes. It supports Flickr uploading, but with software like ShoZu you can streamline the geotagging and make all uploads automatic. Just build a solid mount for your N95 and you’ve pretty much got it, and when you park your bike you can take the phone with you.

Pet photography and tracking


We’ve seen numerous products geared toward tracking the location and activities of your pets, two in the last month, but we feel sure you can make more functional devices than those you can purchase. Let’s look at a few and consider our options.

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Eye-Fi Explore review

The WiFi uploading Eye-Fi SD card made a big splash when it was first introduced, but now Eye-Fi has a whole line of different products. The top of the line is the Eye-Fi Explore, which supports geotagging without using a GPS. Instead of GPS hardware, it uses the Skyhook Wireless Wi-Fi Postitioning System, which correlates the position of the Eye-Fi’s access point to GPS locations, creating virtual GPS functionality. This allows photos taken with the Eye-Fi to be be geotagged. Of course, the accuracy of the system is noticeably lower than true GPS and seems to be affected by a number of external factors, but it is still accurate enough to tag the photo within the immediate vicinity of where it was taken.

WiFi positioning is great feature, but certainly not limited to photography. Since the Eye-Fi is at its core SD storage media, you could probably have it geotag data saved to the card, even if it wasn’t created by a digital camera..