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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Cheap Ikea camera boom ensures shake-free video


[Chris] recently got himself a nice web cam for documenting his Makerbot builds, and much like [Dino], he was looking for a way to get a bird’s-eye view of the action while keeping the camera nice and steady. While [Dino] ventured off to the hardware store, [Chris] tried a few different options that included tape, before heading off to Ikea to see what he could find.

$9 and a few Swedish meatballs later, he was on his way home with a “TERTIAL Work Lamp” that can be mounted on virtually any desk-like surface. He had to remove most of the web cam’s useless mounting hardware, doing the same with the lamp’s light fixture. He put together a small bracket in Google Sketchup, which he then printed out using his Makerbot.

It fit perfectly, and now he can get steady video of his Makerbot prints every single time.

Garage door monitoring and control using a dedicated Android phone

[Sean] happened to have an extra Android phone sitting around and wanted to see what type of home automation he could use it for. One simple hardware modification, and some apps from the Android Market let him monitor and control his garage door remotely.

The hardware modification is a hack we’ve already looked at. The BTmate uses a Bluetooth headset with an added transistor to short the connections on your garage door opener. The only issue is that you need to be within range for the Bluetooth to work. [Sean] adds a layer of abstraction by using two Android phones. One is permanently mounted in the garage and handles the Bluetooth connectivity, while the other uses VNC to tunnel in anywhere he has an Internet connection.

But why stop there? He knew that this one feature was overkill, and added a second which the phone was perfect for. Since it has its own camera, he used the tinyCam app to create a webcam server. This even allows him to turn the LED on and off for a better view in dim light conditions. See [Sean's] demonstration after the break.

Overkill? Maybe, but if you’ve got a phone with a broken LCD, this might be just the thing to give it a new purpose.

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We don’t need to brainstorm projects; xkcd does that for us

[Randall Munroe], the guy behind our favorite web comic xkcd, gave us yet another great project idea that falls on the heels of securing our valuables and silencing loud car stereos. The xkcd forum has been talking about how to implement this, and we’d like to hear what Hack A Day readers think about this idea.

The project isn’t much different from 3D photography. [Carl Pisaturo] has done a lot of art and experimentation based on this idea that basically amounted to largish binoculars. A poster on the xkcd forum has already built this using mirrors, but we’re wondering how much the parallax can be increased with this method. Two cameras and a smart phone would also allow automatic pan and tilt that corresponds to head movement.

We’re not quite sure if this idea can be applied to astronomy. The angular resolution of the human eye is around one arc minute, every star except for the Sun has an annual parallax less than one arc second. If anyone wants to try this out with a longer baseline (From Earth to Pluto for example), we would suggest simulating this in Stellarium. Seeing the moon as a sphere would be possible with a few hundred miles between cameras, though.

Tell us how you would build this in the comments, and be sure to send in your write-up if you manage to build it. We’ll put it up right away.

Thanks to [Theon144] for sending this in.

EDIT: Because the comments are actually bearing fruit, check out the thread on the Hack A Day forums for this post: link.

Smile, your face is on the Internet

[Kyle McDonald] is up to a bit of no-good with a little piece of software he wrote. He’s been installing it on public computers all over New York City. It uses the webcam found in pretty much every new computer out there to detect when a face is in frame, then takes a picture and uploads it to the Internet.

We’ve embedded a video after the break that describes the process. From [Kyle's] comments about the video it seems that he asked a security guard at the Apple store if it was okay to take pictures and he encouraged it. We guess it could be worse, if this were a key logger you’d be sorry for checking your email (or, god forbid, banking) on a public machine. Instead of being malicious, [Kyle] took a string of the images, adjusted them so that the faces were all aligned and the same size, and then rolled them into the latter half of his video.

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