Monitor your heartbeat with a webcam and a flashlight

After seeing some heart rate monitor apps for Android which use the camera and flashlight features of the phones, [Tyson] took on the challenge of coding this for himself. But he’s not using a smart phone, instead he grabbed a headlamp and webcam for his heat rate monitor.

To start out he recorded a test video with his smart phone to see what it looks like to cover both the flash LED and camera module with his thumb. The picture is mainly pink, but there’s quite obviously a color gradient that pulses with each gush of blood through his skin. The next task was to write some filtering software that could make use of this type of image coming from a webcam. He used C# to write a GUI which shows the live feed, as well as a scrolling graph of the processed data. He took several tries at it, we’ve embedded one of the earlier efforts after the break.

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Getting a textured 3D scan from just a webcam

Here’s an oldie but a goodie that passed us up the first time it went around the Internet. [Qi Pan], (former) PhD student at Cambridge, made a 3D modeling program using only a simple webcam. Not only does this make very fast work of building 3D models, the real texture is also rendered on the virtual object.

The project is called ProFORMA, and to get some idea of exactly how fast it is, the model of a church seen above was captured and rendered in a little over a minute. To get the incredible speed of ProFORMA, [Qi] had his webcam take a series of keyframes. When the model is rotated about 10°, another keyframe is taken and the corners are triangulated with some very fancy math.

Even though [Qi]‘s project is from 2009, it seems like it would be better than the ReconstructMe, the Kinect-able 3D scanning we saw a while ago. There’s a great video of [Qi] modeling a papercraft church after the break, but check out the actual paper for a better idea of how ProFORMA works.

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Land ROV is Internet connected and packed full of stuff

[Blair Kelly] has always been interesting in the concept of Remote Operated Vehicles. As soon as he got his hands on an Arduino he began his endeavor to turn an RC vehicle into a land-based ROV. What he’s done so far is incredible.

Here he’s showing off features of the build using a PS3 controller. But it can also take commands from an Xbox 360 controller or an arcade-style steering wheel. We like the latter the best, which is shown off at about six and a half minutes into the video (embedded after the break). Since there’s a webcam on board, this ends up being a virtual cockpit for the pint-sized car. But it gets better. That webcam is mounted on a servo motor, and [Blair] included controls that pan the camera. This lets the driver ‘look’ left and right. On the front of the vehicle there’s an accelerometer. Data is collected by the Arduino and sent via the WiFly module. This adds rumble to the controller if you’re using one that has that ability.

It’s a big project already, but it sounds like [Blair] has not end of ideas for future versions. Right now he’s planning to increase the overall size which will let him explore places that aren’t as flat as his livingroom.

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A Mannequin Head + Arduino + Webcam = Lots of Creepy Fun!

styrofoam head robot

This mannequin head was purchased years ago on sale for less than $3. As with many things one sees while shopping, it didn’t have a purpose at the time, but seemed like it would be useful later. Add in an Arduino, some servos, and electronics parts that were acquire in a similar manner, and you have all the ingredients needed for a cool hack.

The build is well documented in the video after the break, and we especially like at 2:24 when who we suppose is the mom says “Look at this mess!” Apparently the next iteration will be a robot to clean everything up!

This iteration is quite impressive though, as it uses a webcam to track objects using a servomotor and lists the code used. For a view of it tracking stuff along with a view of the PC, fast forward to around 8:45. In addition to tracking the parts using the servo, the non-webcam eye changes color from green to yellow depending on if it’s tracking or not. It also featured a blinking necklace, which is also a plus in our eyes.

For more random head-like creepiness, be sure to check out [Boxie the Creepster]!

A zoom lens for your webcam

We need to find the kind of friends that [Dino] has. They seem to drop off all of their older, yet totally awesome, electronics with him once they’re through with the devices. One example of this is the Sony Handycam that came into his possession. He decided to crack it open and repurpose the 20x optical zoom lens for use with a webcam.

We always like [Dino's] style. You can tell that he has no idea if he’s going to be able to pull off his goal, but at the same time he has an intuitive sense that he’ll make it happen. In the video after the break he starts off investigating what components are in the camera. At first the lens is passing no light at all, but he just strips down parts until he can see through it.

There are a couple of servo motors which control zoom and focus. He removes those before attaching the CCD from a Logitech webcam. At the end of his video he shows a demo of the functionality, which is pretty finicky when focusing by hand. But we think this hack would make a fantastic camera for soldering projects, it just needs a custom controller so the motors can be once again used to adjust focus.

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Electronics that tell you to wash the dishes

Nothing stinks up the house like a sink full of dirty dish. Well, a full trash can will do it to a greater extent, but that’s a project for another day. In what must be an overreaction to a perpetually full sink of dishes at his London Hackerspace, [Tom] built a web-connected dirty dish detector.

He calls it the Great OpenCV Wash-Up Detector. The system features a series of different signals to ‘remind’ forgetful geeks about cleaning up after themselves. The initial implementation uses a traffic signal to alert the room that there are dirty dished to be cleaned; illuminating the different colors to show how long the sink has been full. [Tom] also plans to add message bursts to the IRC room, and air horns when the situation gets dire.

As the name implies, this uses OpenCV to detect circles in the sink. A webcam has been mounted above it pointing straight down, providing a clear input image to detect plates, mugs, and the like. [Tom] even wrote some code that disables the system when the lights are turned off.

Of course, this may train offenders to leave the dishes on the counter where the detector can’t see them.

Augmented reality ex nihilo

[David] sent in a nice project to demonstrate augmented reality with ARtoolkit and discuss the deep philosophical underpinnings of the meaning of nothingness. The good news is he was able to create a volume control button on a sheet of paper with a marker. The bad news is the philosophical treatment is a bit weak; [David] built something cool, so we’re able to let that slide for now.

This build was inspired by the Impromptu Sound Board made using a Kinect and a piece of paper. The idea behind the sound board is simple – draw some buttons on the paper, and use them to play short sound clips. [David] took this idea to make a small tutorial on augmented reality for Occam’s Razor.

The hardware is very simple – just a webcam, a piece of paper, and a marker. After [David] draws a large square on the paper, the code recognizes it as a volume control. Rotating the paper counterclockwise increases the volume, and clockwise turns the volume down. It’s a neat build to get into the foundations of augmented reality.

Check out the video demo of [David]‘s build after the break.

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