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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Hack a webcam and a film camera into a USB microscope

Most of you probably have a webcam sitting around somewhere, and after all the high voltage projects you’ve done using disposable cameras, we bet you have some camera lenses too. You could always do what [Butch] did and combine the lens from the camera with the webcam to do some up close inspection.

This seems like something we’ve seen several times, but we can’t find it in our archive. Such a simple and quick hack looks surprisingly effective in his shots. If you want to see the details, like where he tied into the webcam’s board to power an external LED, you’ll have to download the PDF.

Adventures in resurrecting a no-name IP webcam


As many of us do, [Steaky] serves as a kind of on-call help desk for his family. His father in law recently contacted him because his pan and tilt webcam died, and he wanted to see if it could be fixed. Never turning down a challenge, [Steaky] decided to give it a shot.

He ended up having to disassemble it since the camera was completely unresponsive, and what he found inside piqued his interest. The no-name camera sported an ARM microprocessor at its core, and it seems that some of its pins were damaged due to a poorly designed case. He figured resoldering the pins would do the trick, but that wasn’t the end of his adventures.

As he dug deeper into the device, he found that the camera essentially killed itself, reading and writing data to the wrong places due to the damaged pins on the processor. After plenty of searching around, he was able to find a somewhat compatible firmware image, though not everything worked properly.

His father in law was so impressed with his work that he asked for the camera back, even though [Steaky] hadn’t fully repaired it yet. While he bid the camera goodbye, we’re pretty sure he’d be more than happy to reclaim it for a few days if any of our readers had some additional insight or resources that might help him finish the job.

Google Hangout laser turret

The guys from the House4Hack hackerspace in Johannesburg won the 2011 Google+ Hackathon with their Friggin’ Laser Turret. The build started off as a remote-controlled webcam that can be controlled by anyone in a Google+ hangout. On a whim, the team decided to add a laser to the build because lasers are awesome.

The inspiration for the build was to have a Google+ hangout available whenever someone is at the hackerspace. If a guest can’t grace the team with their physical presence, at least they can be there virtually. The camera is controlled by an Arduino running a bog-standard servo library implementation. The Arduino is connected to a laptop over a serial connection and is able to move left and right. To spice things up a little, the team added a 25mA laser diode to the build controlled from a digital output on the Arduino.

For winning the Jo’burg Google+ Hackathon, the guys scored themselves a Samsung Galaxy S II phone. Not a bad prize for building something cool. Check out the demo of the friggin’ laser turret after the break.

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