Painting With Light And A Little G-Code

Most photographs are made in the fraction of a second that the camera’s shutter is gathering reflected light from the scene. But there’s fun to be had by leaving the shutter open and directing light into the camera. Called light painting, it can be as simple as a camera on a tripod in a dark room and a penlight spelling out dirty words – not like we’d know – or as complicated as this CNC dot-matrix light printer.

The first idea that [Jeremy S. Cook] had for this build didn’t go so well. He fitted an LED to the gantry of his 3D-printer, intending to send it G-code representing bitmaps. The idea would be to set it up in a dark place, open the shutter, and let the machine build up the image by rastering through the X- and Y- axes while blinking the LED on and off at the right time. But since the gantry only moves in one axis, he abandoned the printer in favor of his CNC router. He printed a collar to fit the dust collector shroud we previously featured, added a battery-powered LED, and affixed a pushbutton switch to the let the Z-axis turn on the light. It took some tweaking such as adding a translucent PLA diffuser, to get decent images, but in the end it worked. We like the soft look of the floating voxels, which were really helped by the later addition of a Nano and a Neopixel. Check out the build in the video below.

One thing we’d suggest is better reflection control. [Jeremy] used a black platen as a background, but it wasn’t quite enough. We suggest going none more black next time.

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Adding Real Lenses To An Instant Camera

The Instax SQ6 and Fujifilm’s entire range of instant cameras are fun little boxes that produce instant photos. It’s a polaroid that’s not Polaroid, and like most instant cameras, the lenses are just one or two pieces of plastic. A lens transplant is in order, and that’s exactly what [Kevin] did to his Instax camera.

The key to this lens transplant project is to make it not look like a complete hack job. For this, [Kevin] is keeping the number of custom mechanical parts to a minimum, with just two pieces. There’s a lens shroud that screws down to the current flange on the camera’s plastic chassis, and should blend in perfectly with the rest of the camera. This demanded a significant amount of 3D modeling to get perfect. The other mechanical part is just a plastic disc with a hole in it. These parts were ordered from Shapeways and bolted to the camera with only a few problems regarding spacing and clearances. This didn’t prevent the camera from coming back together, which is when the documentation becomes fast and loose. Who could blame him: the idea of putting real lenses on an instant camera is something few can resist, and the pictures that come out of this modified camera look great.

The current state of the project with a single lens leads the camera to have an inaccurate and tunnel-like viewfinder, but a huge modification brings this project into twin-lens reflex territory. There are more modifications than camera here, but all the printed parts are documented, there are part numbers for McMaster-Carr, and the camera has full control over focusing and framing.

Little FPV Bot Keeps It Simple With An ESP32

When it comes to robots, it seems the trend is to make them as complicated as possible – look at anything from Boston Dynamics if you’ve any doubt of that. But there’s plenty to be said for simple robots too, such as this adorable ESP32-driven live-streaming bot.

Now it’s true that [Max.K]’s creation is more remote controlled car than robot, and comparing it to one of the nightmare-fuelling creations of Boston Dynamics is perhaps unfair. But [Max.K]’s new project is itself a simplification and reimagining of his earlier, larger “ZeroBot“. As the name implies, ZeroBot was controlled by a Raspberry Pi Zero, an obvious choice for a mobile platform designed to stream FPV video. The ESP32 bot eschews the Pi platform in favor of, well, an ESP32. To save as much space as possible, [Max.K] did a custom PCB for the microcontroller and its supporting components. The 3D-printed case is nicely designed to hold the board along with two motors, a small VGA camera, and a battery pack. At 160×120 resolution, the video isn’t amazing, but the fact that it can be streamed from the ESP32 at a decent enough framerate to drive the bot using a simple web interface is impressive.

This was a fun project and a very clean, smooth build. We like the lines of this little bot, and wouldn’t mind building one as a quick weekend project ourselves.

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Under The Hood of Leica Camera Firmware

There’s nothing quite like waiting for something you’ve ordered online to arrive. In [Alex]’s case, he’d ordered a new Leica camera, only to find out there was a six month backlog in shipping. Wanting to whet his thirst regardless, he decided to investigate the Leica website, and reverse engineered a whole heap of camera firmware. As you do.

[Alex] didn’t stop at just one camera, instead spreading his interest across whatever firmware Leica happened to have online at the time. This approach led to improved effectiveness, as there were similarities in the firmware used between different cameras that made it easier to understand what was going on.

There are plenty of surprise quirks – from firmwares using the Doom WAD data format, to compression methods used by iD software in old game releases. [Alex]’s work runs the gamut from plotting out GUI icons on graph paper, to building custom tools to tease apart the operation of the code. Sample components were even sourced from connector manufacturers to reverse engineer various accessories, too.

[Alex]’s methodical approach and perseverance pays off, and it’s always interesting to get a look under the hood of the software underpinning consumer devices. We’ve even seen similar work done to decode the mysteries of Pokemon cries.

[Thanks to JRD for the tip!]

 

Air Knife Keeps GoPro Lens Clean In Messy Environments

Before the GoPro, shooting video of messy, fast-paced, or dangerous things was very different. There were commercial sports camera rigs and various industrial solutions, but the GoPro, with its waterproof housings and diminutive size, was the revolutionary, stick-it-anywhere camera. Despite this, the team at [tarkka] were having issues with the lens getting covered in coolant while shooting videos of their CNC machining projects. To solve this, they created an air knife to clean the lens.

The air knife consists of a wide, flat nozzle that is designed to blow fluid off of the lens. It’s a tidy 3D printed design, which wraps around the GoPro housing. Felt pads are used to give a snug fit, so the device simply slides into place and stays there. The device is fed from a hand-operated nozzle at present, though the team notes that this could be changed to a more permanent connection.

In testing, the device has performed well, even when under a constant barrage of coolant spray. This should make shooting CNC videos much easier for the team, who were formerly required to manually wipe the camera down several times during a shoot. The build was actually inspired by an earlier build by [Edge Precision], which used machined aluminum parts to create a similar tool.

The GoPro remains a popular camera wherever a small and rugged device is required. Consider mounting one to a toy car for a weekend’s worth of fun. Video after the break.

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Front Door Camera Sends Automatic Alerts By Text

In these turbulent times, journalists fearmonger and honest citizens fear for the safety of their homes and themselves. Adding some security features can allay these fears, and with the advent of cheap technology, front door cameras have become popular. There’s a wide array of options on the market, but short of watching hours of logged video, they’re not always super useful. Adding some smarts can really help – as [Peter Quinn] has done.

For this project, [Peter] decided on a JeVois smart camera. More than just a USB webcam, it also packs a quad-core processor running machine vision algorithms. This allows object recognition and other tasks to be run on the camera itself. In this setup, [Peter] configured the JeVois camera to detect people. When a human is detected upon the doorstep, the camera sends a message to the connected Raspberry Pi over serial. The Raspberry Pi then captures a JPEG still from the camera over the USB connection, and, using Twilio, sends a notification to [Peter]’s phone.

It’s a well-integrated system that automatically photographs visitors to [Peter]’s home, requiring little to no interaction from the user. We’ve seen other integrated machine vision platforms, too – such as the OpenMV, which got its start as a Hackaday Prize entry, way back in 2017.

Your Face is Going Places You May Not Like

Many Chinese cities, among them Ningbo, are investing heavily in AI and facial recognition technology. Uses range from border control — at Shanghai’s international airport and the border crossing with Macau — to the trivial: shaming jaywalkers.

In Ningbo, cameras oversee the intersections, and use facial-recognition to shame offenders by putting their faces up on large displays for all to see, and presumably mutter “tsk-tsk”. So it shocked Dong Mingzhu, the chairwoman of China’s largest air conditioner firm, to see her own face on the wall of shame when she’d done nothing wrong. The AIs had picked up her face off of an ad on a passing bus.

False positives in detecting jaywalkers are mostly harmless and maybe even amusing, for now. But the city of Shenzhen has a deal in the works with cellphone service providers to identify the offenders personally and send them a text message, and eventually a fine, directly to their cell phone. One can imagine this getting Orwellian pretty fast.

Facial recognition has been explored for decades, and it is now reaching a tipping point where the impacts of the technology are starting to have real consequences for people, and not just in the ways dystopian sci-fi has portrayed. Whether it’s racist, inaccurate, or easily spoofed, getting computers to pick out faces correctly has been fraught with problems from the beginning. With more and more companies and governments using it, and having increasing impact on the public, the stakes are getting higher.

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