PiNoculars – A Farseeing Pi Camera

The Raspberry Pi camera provides a 5 megapixel resolution with still images of up to 2592 x 1944 and multiple video modes including 2592 x 1944 at 15 frames per second. With it being mounted on a small board it is ideal for using in hacks. [Josh Williams] mounted the camera on the lens of binoculars to capture some startling images, including this squirrel.

The camera is installed on a custom, laser cut mount that fastens to one eyepiece of the binoculars. The Pi itself is mounted above the binoculars. An LCD touch screen from Adafruit allows [Josh] to select the image and adjust the focus. Snapping pictures is done using either the touch screen or switches that come with the screen.

The Instructable [Josh] wrote is extremely detailed and includes two different ways of mounting the Pi on the binoculars. The quick and dirty method just straps on with tape. The highly engineered method delves into Inkscape to design a plywood mount that is laser cut. For portable operation, [Josh] uses one of the ubiquitous battery packs meant for USB charging.

Basic setup of the Pi and camera are in a video after the break.

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Raspberry Pi Laser Beam Profiler

[Anthony] at UCLA needed to verify the shape of a laser beam. Commercial units for this, as you would expect, are expensive. But a Raspberry Pi with a Pi Noir camera easily handles the task. Not only is the use of the Pi cool but so is the task – they are using lasers to cool molecules to study quantum effects. The Pi camera without the IR filter captures a wide bandwidth making it suitable for use with non-visible lasers. [Anthony] captures the beam along two axes and plots both curves on the LCD touchscreen. That data, based on the pictures, is also available on a host PC. All this in a super compact package with a 7″ touch screen display.

One reason I find this fascinating is I did something similar 1977 at the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics. My project was measuring the energy cross-section of a laser beam. The research goal of the Laboratory was the study of inertial confinement laser fusion. While [Anthony] uses an entire camera my project was limited to a 1 dimensional array of charge coupled devices (CCD). The output went to a Tektronix storage terminal and was printed on thermal paper for reference. He uses Python running on the target system. My work used a Z80 development system the size of a tower PC to write my program in assembly language which was then executed on a single board computer. We’ve come a long way. My code is long gone but you can get [Anthony’s] on GitHub.

The Live Still Life

Here’s a project that brings together artist [Justus Bruns] and engineers [Rishi Bhatnagar] and [Michel Jansen] to collaborate on an interactive work of Art. The Live Still Life is a classic still life, streamed live from India to anywhere in the world. It is the first step towards the creation of an art factory, where hundreds of these works will be made, preserved and streamed.

The Live Still Life is a physical composition of fresh fruit and vegetables displayed on a table with flatware, cutlery and other still objects. This is located in a wooden box in Bangalore. Every minute a photo is taken and the image is streamed, live, accessible instantly from anywhere in the world. Les Oiseaux de Merde’s Indian curator is on call to replace the fruit the minute it starts to rot so as to maintain the integrity of the image. In this way, while the image remains the same, the fight against decay is always present. The live stream can be viewed at this link.

The hardware is quite minimal. An internet connected Raspberry Pi model B,  Raspberry Pi camera module, a desk lamp for illumination and a wooden enclosure to house it all including the artwork. Getting the camera to work was just a few lines of code in Python. Live streaming the camera pictures took quite a bit more work than they expected. The server was written using a module called Exprestify written on top of Express JS to facilitate easier RESTful functions. For something that looks straightforward, the team had to overcome several coding challenges, so if you’d like to dig in to the code, some of it is hosted on Github or you can ask [Rishi] since he still needs to clean it up quite a bit.

The Raspberry Pi Action Camera

Action cameras like the GoPro, and the Sony Action Cam are invaluable tools for cyclists and anyone else venturing into the great outdoors. These cameras are not really modifiable or usable in any way except for what they were designed for. [Connor] wanted a cheaper, open-source action camera and decided to build one with the Raspberry Pi.

[Connor]’s Pi action cam is built around the Raspberry Pi Model A+ and the Pi camera. This isn’t a complete solution, so [Connor] added a bluetooth module, a 2000 mAh battery, and a LiPo charger.

To keep the Pi Action Cam out of the elements, [Connor] printed an enclosure. It took a few tries, but eventually he was able to mount everything inside a small plastic box with buttons to start and stop recording, a power switch, and a USB micro jack for charging the battery. The software is a script by [Alex Eames], and the few changes necessary to make this script work with the hardware are also documented.

This was the most intensive 3D printing project [Connor] has ever come up with, and judging by the number of prints that don’t work quite right, he put a lot of work into it. Right now, the Pi action cam works, but there’s still a lot of work to turn this little plastic box into a completed project.

Hackaday Links: July 27, 2014


Taking apart printers to salvage their motors and rods is a common occurrence in hacker circles, but how about salvaging the electronics? A lot of printers come with WiFi modules, and these can be repurposed as USB WiFi dongles. Tools required? And old printer, 3.3 V regulator, and a USB cable. Couldn’t be simpler.

The Raspberry Pi has a connector for a webcam, and it’s a very good solution if you need a programmable IP webcam with GPIOs. How about four cameras?. This Indiegogo is for a four-port camera connector for the Raspi. Someone has a use for this, we’re sure.

The one flexible funding campaign that isn’t a scam. [Kyle] maintains most of the software defined radio stack for Arch Linux, and he’s looking for some funds to improve his work. Yes, it’s basically a ‘fund my life’ crowdfunding campaign, but you’re funding someone to work full-time on open source software.

Calibration tools for Delta 3D printers. It’s just a few tools that speed up calibration, made for MATLAB and Octave.

[Oona] is doing her usual, ‘lets look at everything radio’ thing again, and has a plan to map microwave relay links. If you’ve ever seen a dish or other highly directional antenna on top of a cell phone tower, you’ve seen this sort of thing before. [Oona] is planning on mapping them by flying a quadcopter around, extracting the video and GPS data, and figuring out where all the other microwave links are.

PowerPoint presentations for the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black. Yes, PowerPoint presentations are the tool of the devil and the leading cause of death for astronauts*, but someone should find this useful.

* Yes, PowerPoint presentations are the leading cause of death for astronauts. The root cause of the Columbia disaster was organizational factors that neglected engineer’s requests to use DOD space assets to inspect the wing, after which they could have been rescued. These are organizational factors were, at least in part, caused by PowerPoint.

Challenger was the same story, and although PowerPoint didn’t exist in 1986, “bulletized thinking” in engineering reports was cited as a major factor in the disaster. If “bulletized thinking” doesn’t perfectly describe PowerPoint, I don’t know what does.

As far as PowerPoint being the leading cause of death for astronauts, 14 died on two shuttles, while a total of 30 astronauts died either in training or in flight.

Raspberry Pi camera built as part of advertising campaign


Here’s yet another example of well targeted advertising. This camera built around a Raspberry Pi is a giveaway from Sprite. The “lucky” winner of the camera will have the pleasure of seeing the Sprite logo as a watermark on all of the images they snap with it. But in the right hands it’s a simple hack to remove that “feature” (they published the Python script that adds the watermark) or to just scrap the parts for another project. Either way, Sprite got us to say their name three times in this paragraph so the campaign worked.

The most obvious part of this build is the custom cast resin case that they came up with which is a gaudy cartoon-like monstrosity. It protects the case-less Raspberry Pi board, and mounts the Pi Camera board so that the lens is positioned correctly. The lipstick-sized module mounted in the lower back half of the case is a 2400 mAh portable power supply with a USB charging port sticking out the side. This makes us wonder, do you have to wait for the RPi to power up before snapping a picture? If the size and color didn’t get you noticed by everyone the shutter sound will. it shouts the name of the soda company whenever you press the shutter release button.

If you’re more of a high-end photography enthusiast this DSLR wedded with an RPi will be of more interest.

Racing telemetry on a cockpit view


[Martin] has a Lotus Elise and access to a track. Sounds like fun, huh? The only problem is that the dashcam videos he makes are a little bit boring. Sure, they show him flying around the track, but without some sort of data it’s really hard to improve his driving skills. After thinking about it for a while, [Martin] decided he could use his Raspberry Pi and camera module to record videos from the dashboard of his car, and overlay engine data such as RPM, throttle, and speed right on top of the video.

Capturing video is the easy part of this build – [Martin] just connected his Raspi camera module and used the standard raspivid capture utility. Overlaying data on this captured video was a bit harder, though.

[Martin] had previously written about using the Raspi to read OBD-II data into his Raspi. Combine this with a Python script to write subtitles for his movies, and he’s off to the races, with a video and data replay of every move on the track.

The resulting movie and subtitle files can be reencoded to an HD movie. Reencoding a 13 minute HD video took 9 hours on the Raspi. We’d suggest doing this with a more powerful compy, but at least [Martin] has a great solution to fix his slightly uninformative track videos.