24-hour hackathon project adds object-based automation to hackerspace


[Jeremy Blum], [Jason Wright], and [Sam Sinensky] combined forces for twenty-four hours to automate how the entertainment and lighting works at their hackerspace. They commandeered the whiteboard and used an already present webcam as part of their project. You can see the black tokens which can be moved around the blue tape outline to actuate the controls.

MATLAB is fed an image from the webcam which monitors the space. Frames are received once every second and parsed for changes in the tokens. There are small black squares which either skip to the next track of music or affect pause/play. Simply move them off of their designated spot and the image processing does the rest. This goes for the volume slider as well. We think the huge token for the lights is to ensure that the camera can sense a change in a darkened room.

If image processing isn’t your thing you can still control your audio entertainment with a frickin’ laser.

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Embedded solution for uploading webcam pictures to the cloud


We have friends watch the cats when we go out-of-town. But we always leave a server running with a webcam (motion activated using the Linux “motion” software) so we can check in on them ourselves. But this project may inspire a change. It leverages the features of a Carambola2 to capture images and upload them to Dropbox.

In the picture above the green PCB is a development board for the tiny yellow PCB which is the actual Carambola2. It is soldered on the dev board using the same technique as those HC-05 Bluetooth modules. That shielded board includes a Qualcomm SoC running Linux and a WiFi radio. The dev board feeds it power and allows it connect to the USB webcam.

There’s a bit of command line kung-fu to get everything running but it shouldn’t be out of reach for beginners. Linux veterans will know that taking snapshots from a webcam at regular intervals is a simple task. Uploading to a secure cloud storage site is not. A Bash script handles the heavy lifting. It’s using the Dropbox Application API so this will not violate their TOS and you don’t have to figure out your own method of authenticating from the command line.

3D scanner made in a day


The LVL1 Hackerspace held a hackathon back in June and this is one of the projects that was created in that 24-hour period. It’s a 3D scanner made from leftover parts. The image gives you an idea of the math used in the image processing. It shows the angular relations between the laser diode, the subject being scanned, and the webcam doing the scanning.

The webcam is of rather low quality and one way to quickly improve the output would be to replace it with a better one. But because the rules said they had to use only materials from the parts bin it worked out just fine. The other issue that came into play was the there were no LCD monitors available for use in the project. Because of that they decided to make the device controllable over the network. On the right you can see a power supply taped to the top of a car computer. It connects to the laser (pulled out of a barcode scanner which produces a line of red light) and the turntable. A Python script does all of the image processing, assembling each slice of the scan into both an animated GIF and an OBJ file.

[Thanks Nathan]

Autonomous helicopter works like a Wii remote


[Jack Crossfire] took one of those inexpensive indoor helicopters and made it autonomous. He didn’t replace the hardware used for the helicopter, but augmented it and patched into the remote control to make a base station.

The position feedback is provided in much the same way that the Wii remote is used as a pointing device. On the gaming console there is a bar that goes under the TV with two IR LEDs in it. This is monitored by an IR camera in the Wii remote and used to calculate where you’re pointing the thing. [Jack’s] auto-pilot system uses two Logitech webcams with IR filters over the sensors. You can see them mounted on the horizontal bar in the cutout above. The helicopter itself has an IR LED added to it that is always on. The base station follows this beacon by moving the cameras with a pair of servo motors, calculating position and using it when sending commands to the remote control’s PCB.

Don’t miss the demo video of the rig after the break.

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Computer tracking of billiard balls

The folks at the London-based startup GoCardless have a pool table at their office. Being the techies they are, they decided to build a system that automatically scores games. The results, while not fully complete, are still pretty impressive for something whipped up during a 48 hour hackathon.

The automated score keeper uses a webcam duct taped to the ceiling right above the center of the pool table, The balls – red and yellow balls replace the rainbow of solids and stripes to make things easier – are found using OpenCV.

This build isn’t quite finished yet. The people at GoCardless are looking to improve the accuracy of their setup by using a camera with a higher frame rate and possibly moving on to physics simulation to predict where the balls should be. If these guys get the time, they could add something like augmented reality pool table to improve shot accuracy.

Vidia after the break.

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Controlling your webcam with an old Guitar Hero pedal

Hackaday reader [Tom Price] often uses Skype to communicate with family near and far, but he was getting tired of adjusting his webcam each time his kids moved out of frame. While the solution he came up with isn’t fully automated, it is hands-free, which is good enough for his purposes.

[Tom] was looking around for an electronic foot pedal of some sort when he came across a wireless 3rd party Guitar Hero peripheral that happened to fit the bill. Using an Arduino library created by [Bill Porter], he was quickly able to get the toy to communicate with an Arduino-flashed Atmega8, but things kind of fell flat when it came time to relay signals back to his computer. Using another Atmega8 along with the PS2X library, he was able to emulate the Guitar Hero controller that his foot pedal was looking for.

With the pedal portion of his project wrapped up, he focused on his webcam. [Tom] mounted the camera on a small servo, which he then wired up to the receiving end of his foot pedal rig. As you can see in the video below, he can now pan his camera across the room with a tap of his foot, rather than leaning in and manually adjusting it.

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QR code opens doors to you

[Jeremy Blum] wrote in to share his LibeTech QR Code Door Lock project. He developed it during his Senior year at Cornell University along with three of his classmates. It seeks to move away from magnetic card locks in favor of optical locks that authenticate based on a QR code.

The hardware he’s using here is definitely cost prohibitive, but we’re sure the concept could be greatly simplified. In this case a BeagleBone running embedded Linux monitors a feed from a webcam. When it detects a QR code it compares it with a database of approved keys and will unlock the door for you.

There are problems with this technique, one being that an attacker might be able to get a usable photograph of your key without you knowing. But the majority of hotel locks in use right now are even less secure than that. On the upside, the key to your room can be emailed to you for use on just about any device with a screen, or printed out on a piece of paper.

You can find [Jeremy’s] presentation video embedded after the break.

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