Camera Uses Algorithms Instead of Lenses

A normal camera uses a lens to bend light so that it hits a sensor. A pinhole camera doesn’t have a lens, but the tiny hole serves the same function. Now two researchers from the University of Utah. have used software to recreate images from scattered unfocused light. The quality isn’t great, but there’s no lens — not even a pinhole — involved. You can see a video, below.

The camera has a sensor on the edge of a piece of a transparent window. The images could resolve .1 line-pairs/mm at a distance of 150 mm and had a depth of field of about 10 mm. This may seem like a solution that needs a problem, but think about the applications where a camera could see through a windshield or a pair of glasses without having a conventional camera in the way.

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Disassembling Mouse Sensors For Tracking Tongues

We just wrapped up the Human Computer Interface challenge in this year’s Hackaday Prize, and with that comes a bevy of interesting new designs for mice and keyboards that push the envelope of what you think should be possible, using components that seem improbable. One of the best examples of this is The Bit, a project from [oneohm]. It’s a computer mouse, that uses a tiny little trackpad in ways you never thought possible. It’s a mouse that fits on your tongue.

The idea behind The Bit was to create an input device for people with limited use of their extremities. It’s a bit like the Eyedriveomatic, the winner from the 2015 Hackaday Prize, but designed entirely to fit on the tip of your tongue.

The first experiments on a tongue-controlled mouse were done with an optical trackpad/navigation button found on Blackberry Phones. Like all mouse sensors these days, these modules are actually tiny, really crappy cameras. [oneohm] picked up a pair of these modules and found they had completely different internal tracking modules, so the experiment turned to a surface tracking module from PixArt Imaging that’s also used as a filament sensor in the Prusa 3D printer. This module was easily connected to a microcontroller, and with careful application of plastics, was imbedded in a pacifier. Yes, it tracks a tongue and turns that into cursor movements. It’s a tongue-tracking mouse, and it works.

This is an awesome project for the Hackaday Prize. Not only does it bring new tech to a human-computer interface, it’s doing it in a way that’s accessible to all.

Guardin, Guarding the Garden: Turn Raspberry Pi Into a 3rd Eye

If you are a gardener, you’ll know only too well the distress of seeing your hard work turned into a free lunch for passing herbivorous wildlife. It’s something that has evidently vexed [Jim], because he’s come up with an automated Raspberry Pi-controlled turret to seek out invading deer, and in his words: “Persuade them to munch elsewhere”.

Before you groan and sigh that here’s yet another pan and tilt camera, let us reassure you that this one is a little bit special. For a start, it rotates upon a set of slip rings rather than an untidy mess of twisted cables, so it can perfom 360 degree rotations at will, then it has a rather well-designed tilting cage for its payload. The write-up is rather functional but worth persevering with, and he’s posted a YouTube video that we’ve placed below the break.

This is a project that still has some way to go, for example just how those pesky deer are to be sent packing isn’t made entirely clear, but we think it already shows enough potential to be worthy of a second look. The slip ring mechanism in particular could find a home in many other projects.

It’s worth reminding readers that while pan and tilt mechanisms can be as impressive as this one, sometimes they are a little more basic.

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Feast Your Eyeballs On This Mechanical Eyeball

Most of us, if we have bought a single board computer with the capability¬† to support a camera, will have succumbed to temptation and shelled out for that peripheral in the hope that we can coax our new toy into having sight. We’ll have played with the command line tool and taken a few random images of our bench, but then what? There is so much possibility in a camera that our colleague [Steven Dufresne] wanted to explore with his Raspberry Pi, so he built a motorised eyeball mount with which to do so.

Pan & tilt mounts using RC servos are nothing especially new, but in this one he’s put some design effort that maybe some of the others lack. A lot of effort has gone in to ensuring no interference between the two axes, and in a slightly macabre twist until you remember it’s a model he’s talking about, the unit has been designed to fit inside a human head.

The servos are driven from the Pi using a servo driver board he’s discussed in another video, so once he’s described the assembly with a few design tweaks thrown in he has a quick look at the software demo he’s written emulating neurons for eye tracking. He promises that will be put up somewhere for download in due course.

If you’re in the market for a pan & tilt mount for your Pi, this one could make a lot of sense to throw at your 3D printer. It’s certainly more accomplished than this previous one we’ve shown you.

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The Photo Lab That Flew to the Moon

When planning a trip by car these days, it’s pretty much standard practice to spin up an image of your destination in Google Maps and get an idea of what you’re in for when you get there. What kind of parking do they have? Are the streets narrow or twisty? Will I be able to drive right up, or will I be walking a bit when I get there? It’s good to know what’s waiting for you, especially if you’re headed someplace you’ve never been before.

NASA was very much of this mind in the 1960s, except the trip they were planning for was 238,000 miles each way and would involve parking two humans on the surface of another world that we had only seen through telescopes. As good as Earth-based astronomy may be, nothing beats an up close and personal look, and so NASA decided to send a series of satellites to our nearest neighbor to look for the best places to land the Apollo missions. And while most of the feats NASA pulled off in the heyday of the Space Race were surprising, the Lunar Orbiter missions were especially so because of how they chose to acquire the images: using a film camera and a flying photo lab.

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Bringing Augmented Reality to the Workbench

[Ted Yapo] has big ideas for using Augmented Reality as a tool to enhance an electronics workbench. His concept uses a camera and projector system working together to detect objects on a workbench, and project information onto and around them. [Ted] envisions¬†virtual displays from DMMs, oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, and other instruments projected onto a convenient place on the actual work area, removing the need to glance back and forth between tools and the instrument display. That’s only the beginning, however. A good camera and projector system could read barcodes on component bags to track inventory, guide manual PCB assembly by projecting which components go where, display reference data, and more.

An open-sourced, accessible machine vision system working in tandem with a projector would open a lot of doors. Fortunately [Ted] has prior experience in this area, having previously written the computer vision code for room-scale dynamic projection environments. That’s solid experience that he can apply to designing a workbench-scale system as his entry for The Hackaday Prize.

Philo Farnsworth, RCA, and the Battle for Television

The parenthood of any invention of consequence is almost never cut and dried. The natural tendency to want a simple story that’s easy to tell — Edison invented the light bulb, Bell invented the telephone — often belies the more complex tale: that most inventions have uncertain origins, and their back stories are often far more interesting as a result.

Inventing is a rough business. It is said that a patent is just a license to get sued, and it’s true that the determination of priority of invention often falls to the courts. Such battles often pit the little guy against a corporate behemoth, the latter with buckets of money to spend in making the former’s life miserable for months or years. The odds are rarely in the favor of the little guy, but in few cases was the deck so stacked against someone as it was for a young man barely out of high school, Philo Farnsworth, when he went up against one of the largest companies in the United States to settle a simple but critical question: who invented television?

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