Many of the hacks featured here inspire others to build on the creator’s work, and on occasion the positive feedback brings the hack to market. Last year we told you about [Wayne’s] creation, a system aimed at tracking down would-be game console thieves. He received a bunch of requests to document the tracker in full, so he decided to revise his creation and release it as Open Source Hardware.
As you might remember, his original tracking device was powered by an Arduino, which monitored an accelerometer and GPS sensor, reporting coordinates and movements to his mobile phone on demand. He combined the disparate components together on a single board, and started a Kickstarter for the project.
Aside from his original purpose of tracking stolen goods, he lists off an array of other uses, such as tracking the driving habits of your newly licensed teen, geofencing objects in certain areas and more.
If an SMS controlled all-in-one tracking system is something you might be interested in, check out his Kickstarter, or take a look at the documentation and build one of your own.
One of [Wayne’s] relatives had their house robbed during a blizzard/extended power outage, and as is typically the case, none of the stolen items were recovered. His nephew’s PS3 was among the pilfered belongings, which didn’t sit well with him. Taking a cue from police “bait cars”, he thought it would be cool to fit a dummy game console with a tracking device, should anything similar happen in the future.
He bought a hollowed out PS3 shell on eBay, filling it with an Arduino, an accelerometer, a GPS sensor, a small GSM modem with a prepaid SIM card, and a reasonably sized LiPoly battery. The system usually sits in a sleeping state, but when the accelerometer senses motion, the Arduino powers up the GSM modem and sends an SMS security alert to his mobile phone. Using his phone to control the tracking system via SMS, he can request GPS coordinates and directional information, which can then be relayed to the police.
His tracking system is a great idea since hawking stolen game consoles are easy money for thieves. If there happens to be a string of robberies in your neighborhood, you could certainly rest a little bit easier knowing that your Playstation doppelganger will let you know if someone is looting your house.
It looks like the world of Kinect hacks is about to get a bit more interesting.
While many of the Kinect-based projects we see use one or two units, this 3D telepresence system developed by UNC Chapel Hill student [Andrew Maimone] under the guidance of [Henry Fuchs] has them all beat.
The setup uses up to four Kinect sensors in a single endpoint, capturing images from various angles before they are processed using GPU-accelerated filters. The video captured by the cameras is processed in a series of steps, filling holes and adjusting colors to create a mesh image. Once the video streams have been processed, they are overlaid with one another to form a complete 3D image.
The result is an awesome real-time 3D rendering of the subject and surrounding room that reminds us of this papercraft costume. The 3D video can be viewed at a remote station which uses a Kinect sensor to track your eye movements, altering the video feed’s perspective accordingly. The telepresence system also offers the ability to add in non-existent objects, making it a great tool for remote technology demonstrations and the like.
Check out the video below to see a thorough walkthrough of this 3D telepresence system.
Continue reading “Amazing 3d telepresence system”
While the Kinect is great at tracking gross body movements and discerning what part of a person’s skeleton is moving in front of the camera, the device most definitely has its shortfalls. For instance, facial recognition is quite limited, and we’re guessing that it couldn’t easily track an individual’s eye throughout the room.
No, for tracking like that, you would need something far more robust. Under the guidance of [Krystian Mikolajczyk and Jiri Matas], PhD student [Zdenek Kalal] has been working on a piece of software called TLD, which has some pretty amazing capabilities. The software uses almost any computer-connected camera to simultaneously Track an object, Learn its appearance, and Detect the object whenever it appears in the video stream. The software is so effective as you can see in the video below, that it has been dubbed “Predator”.
Once he has chosen an object within the camera’s field of vision, the software monitors that object, learning more and more about how it looks under different conditions. The software’s learning abilities allow it to pick out individual facial features, follow moving objects in video, and can recognize an individual’s face amid a collection of others.
While the software can currently only track one object at a time, we imagine that with some additional development and computing horsepower, this technology will become even more amazing.
Continue reading “Camera software learns to pick you out of a crowd”
Most people tend to enjoy a certain modicum of privacy. Aside from the data we all share willingly on the web in the form of forum posts, Twitter activity, etc., people generally like keeping to themselves.
What would you think then, if you found out your iPhone (or any iDevice with 3G) was tracking and logging your every movement?
That’s exactly what two researchers from the UK are claiming. They state that the phone is constantly logging your location using cell towers, placing the information into a timestamped database. That database is not encrypted, and is copied to your computer each time you sync with iTunes. Additionally, the database is copied back to your new phone should you ever replace your handset.
We understand that many iPhone apps use location awareness to enhance the user experience, and law enforcement officials should be able to pull data from your phone if necessary – we’re totally cool with that. However, when everywhere you have been is secretly logged in plaintext without any sort of notification, we get a bit wary. At the very least, Apple should consider encrypting the file.
While this data is not quite as sensitive as say your Social Security number or bank passwords, it is dangerous in the wrong hands just the same. Even a moderately skilled thief, upon finding or swiping an iPhone, could easily dump the contents and have a robust dataset showing where you live and when you leave – all the makings of a perfect home invasion.
Continue reading to see a fairly long video of the two researchers discussing their findings.
[Image courtesy of Engadget]
Continue reading “iPhone watching every breath you take, every move you make”
Earlier this week, we came across a video of an orb-based eyeball that would follow you throughout the room, based on data gathered from a Kinect sensor. Try as we might, we couldn’t find much more than the video, but it seems that the guys behind the project have spoken up in a recent blog post.
[Jon George] of The Design Studio UK explained that the person-tracking eyeball visualization was built using a PC, a Kinect, and a product called the Puffersphere, which projects a 360 degree image on the inside of a glass orb. A panoramic image is converted for use by the special lens inside the sphere by applying a filter which warps the image into a circular shape.
After the image has been created, a simple Windows app is used in conjunction with the OpenNI framework that allows the image to follow you around the room.
The only problem with this fun little project is the price of the sphere – we’re not sure what it is exactly, but rest assured it is more than we are willing to pay for such a toy. We’re thinking there has to be a way to simulate the orb’s effect to some degree using cheaper hardware. It’s possible that it could be done using a small-scale DIY version of this spherical mirror projection build, though it consists of concave half-spheres rather than full orbs.
In the meantime, take a look at these two videos of the orb in action. Don’t worry – we know you were totally thinking about the Eye of Sauron, so the second video should not disappoint.
Continue reading “People-tracking orb demo makes us want to build our own”
F.A.T. took it to the next level, combining a couple of their projects for the Cinekid festival. This contraption lets kids write their names with their eyes for printing by a robot arm. The first part is a glasses-free version of the EyeWriter, originally developed as an assistive technology. The system uses some IR LEDs to generate a reflection on your eye that a PS3 camera can pick up and use to precisely track your gaze. Just look at each key on a virtual keyboard to spell out your message. From there, a robot arm used previously in the Robotagger project prints out the name on a big sheet of paper the kids can take home. This is cool, but more importantly it’s a great way to inspire the next generation of hackers and engineers. Check out the video after the break.
Continue reading “Kids type with their eyes, robot arm prints their words”