Hackaday Prize Entry: Cheap Visible Light Communication

[Jovan] is very excited about the possibilities presented by Visible Light Communication, or VLC. It’s exciting and new. His opening paragraphs is filled with so many networking acronyms that VLC could be used for, our browser search history now looks like we’re trying to learn english without any vowels.

In lots of ways he has good reason to be excited. We all know that IR can communicate quite a bit, but when you’re clever about frequency and color and throw in some polarizers with a mix of clever algorithms for good measure you can get some very high bandwidth communication with anything in line of site. You can do it for low power, and best of all, there are no pesky regulations to stand in your way.

He wants to build a system that could be used for a PAN (Personal Area Network). To do this he’ll have to figure out a way to build the system inexpensively and using less than a watt of power. The project page is full of interesting experiments and quite a few thesis on the subject of LEDs.

For example, he’s done work on how LEDs respond to polarization. He’s tested how fast an LED can actually turn on and off while still being able to detect the change. He’s also done a lot of work characterizing the kind of light that an LED emits. We don’t know if he’ll succeed yet, but we like the interesting work he’s doing to get there.

Pan and Tilt with Dual Controllers

It wasn’t long ago that faced with a controller project, you might shop for something with just the right features and try to minimize the cost. These days, if you are just doing a one-off, it might be just as easy to throw commodity hardware at it. After all, a Raspberry Pi costs less than a nice meal and it is more powerful than a full PC would have been not long ago.

When [Joe Coburn] wanted to make a pan and tilt webcam he didn’t try to find a minimal configuration. He just threw a Raspberry Pi in for interfacing to the Internet and an Arduino in to control two RC servo motors. A zip tie holds the servos together and potentially the web cam, too.

You can see the result in the video below. It is a simple matter to set up the camera with the Pi, send some commands to the Arduino and hook up to the Internet.

Continue reading “Pan and Tilt with Dual Controllers”

Complex camera rig controlled with Blender 3D


This is a pretty intricate camera mount. Not only does it provide pan and tilt as the subtitles state, but it moves along a track and offers zoom and focus controls. Its great, but you’ll need an equally complex set of controls to do anything meaningful with it. That’s where the real hack comes into play. The entire system is controlled by its virtual model in Blender 3D.

You probably already know that Blender 3D is an open source 3-dimensional modeling suite. It’s got a mountain of features, which include a framework for animating virtual objects. The camera rig was replicated inside of the software, and includes a skeleton that moves just like the real thing. You can make an animation of how the camera should move, then export and play back those motions on the physical hardware.

Now if you need help making 3D models of your hardware perhaps you should try scanning them.

Continue reading “Complex camera rig controlled with Blender 3D”

Pan/Tilt wheel trainer ends up being a different way to play Quake

This is a special controller that [Gary Scott] built to help train camera operators. The pan and tilt controls on high-end movie cameras use wheels to pan and tilt smoothly. This rig can be built rather inexpensively and used to practice following a subject as you would with a camera. This is where the project takes a turn into familiar territory. [Gary] set up a system so that you can play the game Quake using this controller, with your feet doing the rest.

The pan/tilt controller uses two heads from an old VCR. They are mounted above the guts from an old ball-type mouse. A couple of rubber belts connect the heads to the two mouse bars that are normally rotated by the ball. This gives him control of where the Quake game is looking. But he still needed to be able to move, jump, change weapons. and shoot. So he built a second controller for his feet. It uses a CD and some switches as a joystick, and a set of buttons for the other controls. He actually rigged up solenoids to each of those foot switches to physically press keys on a keyboard. You really must see it for yourself. We’ve embedded his set of videos after the break.

Continue reading “Pan/Tilt wheel trainer ends up being a different way to play Quake”

Wireless camera mount offers pan and tilt functions

[Chris] put together a bunch of common components to create this wireless pan and tilt system for a security camera or a robot.

The motorized base is simple enough, using two servos to make up a mount for the digital camera. In this case he used a parts package which is designed to mount the servos perpendicular to each other. You could also 3D print, our build your own brackets quite easily. The control circuitry consists of a pair of PIC 18LF4520 microcontrollers and a set of Xbee modules. This is where the wireless connectivity comes in.

On the transmitter side, a pair of potentiometers are read by the microcontroller’s ADC and translated into position values. The receiver takes those values and drives the servo motors accordingly. In the clip after the break [Chris] is using micro trimpots which require a screw driver to adjust. You might want to hit the parts bin and see if you can get some that have a more user-friendly shaft or knob.

Unfortunately this system doesn’t transmit video. But WiFi webcams are getting quite affordable so that might be a good option in this case. Continue reading “Wireless camera mount offers pan and tilt functions”

MCU controllable camera mount


[psymansays] needed a panning head for his robotics projects. Already being familiar with the NXP LPC2148 from work, so he wanted to use that to control it.  he built his own carousel out of old CDs. The axle of the carousel is a potentiometer. This is what he’s using to determine position. The gear motor was actually cobbled together with bits from a windup toy and an old motor. This may be a bit bulky, but it seems not only functional, but fairly versatile.

Bug Labs introduces new BUGmodules


Bug Labs, the company that makes modular electronics that allow you to build your own tech doohickeys quickly and easily, has announced five new modules: BUGprojector, a mini DLP projector developed in conjunction with Texas Instruments, which sounds very much like the tiny DLP projector we posted about last week; BUGsound, an audio processing module with four stereo input/output jacks, a microphone, a speaker, and builtin hardware codecs; BUGbee (802.15.4) and BUGwifi (802.11 and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR), which will let you connect wirelessly with your PAN and WLAN, respectively; and BUG3g GSM, for connecting to (you guessed it) 3G GSM networks. In conjunction with Bug Labs’ existing series of modules, especially the highly versatile BUGvonHippel universal module, you’ll be able to create some pretty kickass gadgets. No word yet on pricing, although Bug Labs expects to ship by the end of Q1 2009.