Race RC Cars From Anywhere On Earth

Racing games have come a long way over the years. From basic 2D sprite-based titles, they’ve evolved to incorporate advanced engines with highly realistic simulated physics that can even be used to help develop real-world automobiles. For [Surrogate.tv], that still wasn’t quite good enough, so they decided to create something more rooted in reality.

The game is played in a web browser. Players are assigned a car and view the action from a top-down camera.

Their project resulted in a racing game based on controlling real RC cars over the internet, in live races against other human opponents. Starting with a series of Siku 1:43 scale RC cars, the team had to overcome a series of engineering challenges to make this a reality. For one, the original electronics had to be gutted as the team had issues when running many cars at the same time.

Instead, the cars were fitted with ESP8266s running custom firmware. An overhead GoPro is used with special low-latency streaming software to allow players to guide their car to victory. A computer vision system is used for lap timing, and there’s even automatic charging stations to help keep the cars juiced up for hours of play.

The game is free to play online, with the races currently operating on a regular schedule. We look forward to trying our hand at a race or three, and will be interested to see how the latency holds up from various parts of the world.

We’ve seen other remote RC builds before; usually featuring the power of the Raspberry Pi. We’ve also covered useful techniques for low latency video for real-time applications. Video after the break.

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A Laser Aiming Module For First Person Hacking

You’ve perhaps noticed that [Jeremy Cook]¬† is rather prolific on YouTube, regularly putting out videos on his latest and greatest creations. He wanted to add a head-mounted GoPro to his video production bag of tricks, but found it was a little trickier than expected to get the camera to point where he was actually looking. The solution? A 3D printed laser “sight” for the GoPro that let’s him zero it in while creating videos.

The idea here is very simple: put a small laser module on the same mount as the GoPro itself so you’ll have a handy red dot showing more or less where the camera is looking. The position of the red dot relative to the center-point of the camera’s field of view is going to vary slightly with range, but with something like a GoPro that’s shooting a very wide area to begin with, it’s not really a problem in practice.

Sounds like a good idea, but won’t that leave a weird red dot in all the videos? [Jeremy] is already ahead of you there, and added a small push button switch to the front of the module so he can quickly and easily turn the laser on and off. The idea is that he turns the laser on, gets the dot roughly where he wants the camera pointed, and then turns it back off.

[Jeremy] has put the STL files for the single-piece 3D printed module up on his GitHub for anyone who might find them useful. Besides the printed part, you just need to provide a suitably sized 3.7 V LiPo battery and the laser diode itself. If you need to find a good supply of cheap lasers, you might want to check the clearance rack at the big box store.

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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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3D Printed Clockwork Star Tracker

Astrophotography is one of those things you naturally assume must be pretty difficult; surely something so awesome requires years of practice and specialized equipment which costs as much as your car. You shake your fist at the sky (since you have given up on taking pictures of it), and move on with your life. Another experience you’ll miss out on.

But in reality, dramatic results don’t necessarily require sticker shock. We’ve covered cheap DIY star trackers before on Hackaday, but this design posted on Thingiverse by [Tinfoil_Haberdashery] is perhaps the easiest we’ve ever seen. It keeps things simple by using a cheap 24 hour clock movement to rotate a GoPro as the Earth spins. The result is a time-lapse where the stars appear to be stationary while the horizon rotates.

Using a 24 hour clock movement is an absolutely brilliant way to synchronize the camera with the Earth’s rotation without the hoops one usually has to jump through. Sure you could do with a microcontroller, a stepper motor, and some math. But a clock is a device that’s essentially been designed from the ground up for keeping track of the planet’s rotation, so why not use it?

If there’s a downside to the clock movement, it’s the fact that it doesn’t have much torque. It was intended to move an hour hand, not your camera, so it doesn’t take much to stall out. The GoPro (and other “action” cameras) should be light enough that it’s not a big deal; but don’t expect to mount your DSLR up to one. Even in the video after the break, it looks like the clock may skip a few steps on the way down as the weight of the camera starts pushing on the gears.

If you want something with a bit more muscle, we’ve recently covered a very slick Arduino powered “barn door” star tracker.¬†But there’re simpler options if you’re looking to get some shots tonight.

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Take A Time-Lapse Or Bake A Cake With This Kitchen Timer Panning Rig

Seems like the first thing the new GoPro owner wants to do is a time-lapse sequence. And with good reason – time-lapses are cool. But they can be a bit bland without a little camera motion, like that provided by a dirt-cheap all-mechanical panning rig.

Let’s hope [JackmanWorks]’ time-lapse shots are under an hour, since he based his build on a simple wind-up kitchen timer, the likes of which can be had for a buck or two at just about any store. The timer’s guts were liberated from the case and a simple wooden disc base with a 1/4″-20 threaded insert for a tripod screw was added. The knob, wisely left intact so the amount of time left in the shot is evident, has a matching bolt for the camera’s tripod socket. Set up the shot, wind¬†up the timer, and let it rip at 1/60 of an RPM. Some sample time-lapse shots are in the video below.

Turning this into a super-simple powered slider for dollying during a time-lapse wouldn’t be too tough — if you’ve already got a nice pantograph slide rig built.

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VR And Back Again: An XRobots Tale

Our friend [James Bruton] from XRobots has engaged in another bit of mixed-reality magic by showing how one can seamlessly step from the virtual world into the real world, and back again. Begone, green screens and cumbersome lighting!

Now, most of what you’re seeing is really happening in post-production — for now — but the test footage is the precursor for a more integrated system down the road. As it works now, a GoPro is attached to the front of a HTC Vive headset, allowing [Bruton] to record in both realities at the same time. In the VR test area he has set up is a portal to a virtual green room¬†— only a little smaller than a wardrobe — allowing him to superimpose the GoPro footage over everything he looks at through that doorway, as well as everything surrounding him when he steps through. Unfortunately, [Bruton] is not able to see where he’s going if he is to wear the headset, so he’s forced to hold it in one hand and move about the mixed-reality space. Again, this is temporary.

In action — well, it gets a little surreal when he starts tossing digital blocks through the gateway ‘into’ the real world.

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The ‘All-Seeing Pi’ Aids Low-Vision Adventurer

Adventure travel can be pretty grueling, what with the exotic locations and potential for disaster that the typical tourist destinations don’t offer. One might find oneself dangling over a cliff for that near-death-experience selfie or ziplining through a¬†rainforest canopy. All this is significantly complicated by being blind, of course, so a tool like this¬†Raspberry Pi low-vision system would be a welcome addition to the nearly-blind adventurer’s well-worn rucksack.

[Dan] has had vision problems since childhood, but one look at his YouTube channel shows that he doesn’t let that slow him down.¬†When [Dan] met [Ben] in Scotland, [Ben] noticed that he was using his smartphone as a vision aid, looking at the display up close and zooming in to get as much detail as possible from his remaining vision. [Ben] thought he could help, so he whipped up a heads-up display from a Raspberry Pi and a Pi Camera. Mounted to a 3D-printed frame holding a 5″ HDMI display and worn from a GoPro head mount, the camera provides enough detail to help [Dan] navigate, as seen in the video below.

The rig is a bit unwieldy right now, but as proof of concept (and proof of friendship), it’s a solid start. We think a slimmer profile design might help, in which case [Ben] might want to look into this Google Glass-like display for a multimeter for inspiration on version 2.0.

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