New Take On The Camera Obscura Brings Paris Indoors

We haven’t checked, but we’ll go out on a limb here and say this is the first project we’ve featured with a BOM that includes “an apartment in Paris with a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower.” We suppose there are other places in the world where a giant camera obscura like this would work too, but you’ve got to admit that the view is pretty spectacular.

Of course, a camera obscura is really just a dark room — that’s literally what it means in Latin — with a small aperture to admit light from the outside world. This projects an inverted image on the opposite wall, which must have looked absolutely magical to pre-technical people and honestly is still pretty stunning today. Either way, it’s a low-tech way of seeing the world in a different light. [Mathieu Stern] decided his camera obscura would turn the traditional design on its head. Literally — he wanted an upright image. Luckily, he found a supplier that makes special optics for camera obscura that do just that. It looks like the optic uses a Dove prism to invert the image, or in this case to turn it back into an upright image.

The real hack here was finding the perfect place with just the right view of the Eiffel Tower — not at all an easy task in a medieval city where streets go where they will and buildings tend to block the sightlines. [Mathieu] eventually managed to find just the right place. With a little aluminum foil to make the rented room really obscura and some strategically positioned sheets to improve the projection surface, he was able to project some beautiful images of the landmark and surrounding cityscape in a panorama on the apartment walls. The video below has some stills and time-lapse sequences that are pretty breathtaking.

We’ve seen other camera obscura before, including this mobile version which may have made things easier for [Mathieu], at the price of giving up a lot of the charm.

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Hackaday Links: June 4, 2023

A report released this week suggests that 50 flights into its five-flight schedule, the Mars helicopter might be starting to show its age. The report details a protracted communications outage Ingenuity’s flight controllers struggled with for six sols after flight 49 back in April. At first attributed to a “communications shadow” caused by the helicopter’s robotic buddy, Perseverance, moving behind a rocky outcrop and denying line of sight, things got a little dicey once the rover repositioned and there was still no joy. Since the helicopter has now graduated from “technology demonstration” to a full-fledged member of the team tasked with scouting locations for the rover while respecting the no-fly zone around it, it was essential to get it flying again. Several attempts to upload a flight plan failed with nothing but an acknowledgment signal from the helicopter, but a final attempt got the program uploaded and flight 50 was a complete if belated success. So that’s good, but the worrying news is that since Sol 685, the helicopter has been switching in and out of nighttime survival mode. What that portends is unclear, but no matter how amazing the engineering is, there’s only so much that can be asked on Ingenuity before something finally gives.

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Holograms Display Time With ESP32

Holograms and holographic imagery are typically viewed within the frame of science fiction, with perhaps the most iconic examples being Princess Leia’s message to Obi-Wan in Star Wars, or the holodecks from Star Trek. In reality, holograms have been around for a surprising amount of time, with early holographic images being produced in the late 1940s. There are plenty of uses outside of imagery for modern holographic systems as well, and it’s a common enough technology that it’s possible to construct one using an ESP32 as well.

In this build, [Fiberpunk] demonstrates the construction and operation of a holographic clock. The image is three-dimensional and somewhat transparent and is driven by an ESP32 microcontroller. The display is based around a beamsplitter prism which, when viewed from the front, is almost completely invisible to the viewer. The ESP32 is housed in a casing beneath this prism, and [Fiberpunk] has two firmware versions available for the device. The first is the clock which displays an image as well as the time, and the second is more of a demonstration which can show more in-depth 3D videos using gcode models and also has motion sensing controls.

For anyone interested in holography, a platform like this is might make an excellent entry point to explore, and with the source for this build available becomes even easier. It’s almost certainly less expensive than these 3D printers that can turn out custom holographic images, and has the added benefit of being customizable and programmable as well.

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Reflecting On A Queueing Prism Leads To Unexpected Results

Computers are difficult enough to reason about when there’s just a single thread doing one task. There are dozens of cores in today’s modern processor world, and your program might try to take advantage of using more than just one. Things happening concurrently makes the number of states and interactions explode in to a mess we as humans are likely going to have trouble understanding. So, like [Hillel], you might turn to the computer to try and model those interactions.

The model in question is a task queue. Things are added to the pile, and “workers” grab one from the pile and process it. There are two metrics used to measure the effectiveness of a task queue: throughput and latency. Throughput is the number of things you can do per second (like this maximum throughput 3d printer), while latency is the amount of time it takes to finish one thing. Continue reading “Reflecting On A Queueing Prism Leads To Unexpected Results”

Light projected through prisms on to laser-cut letters submerged in water.

YOU Are A Projection Of Your Influences

Who are you? No, who are you really? You’re an amalgamation of influences from your family, your friends, the media, and the parasocial relationships you have with fictional characters. It’s okay; we all are. It can’t be helped that there’s a lot of it about.

[Kim Pimmel]’s YOU examines this question of identity in the form of  projected typography. YOU are solidly laser-cut at birth, but then come the influences — the water of everyday life that surrounds you, the lights that mask your dread or lay you bare, and the prisms of circumstance that twist the light into brilliant patterns that burn memories into your brain.

In this case, the light comes from a hacked camping headlamp that was past its prime. [Kim] laser-cut the letters from acrylic and submerged them in water, which can be manipulated to enhance the effect and mimic the turmoil of life. For added effect, [Kim] held prisms in the light’s path to refract it and cause the patterns to dance. Be sure to check it out after the break, and don’t forget to turn on the sound so you can hear [Kim]’s original composition.

Want to see more trippy typography? Check out this vector art that started as Perlin noise.

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Growing The World’s Largest Snowflake

Plenty of areas around the world don’t get any snowfall, so if you live in one of these places you’ll need to travel to experience the true joy of winter. If you’re not willing to travel, though, you could make some similar ice crystals yourself instead. While this build from [Brian] aka [AlphaPhoenix] doesn’t generate a flurry of small ice crystals, it does generate a single enormous one in a very specific way.

The ice that [Brian] is growing is created in a pressure chamber that has been set up specifically for this hexagonal crystal. Unlike common ice that is made up of randomly arranged and varying crystals frozen together, this enormous block of ice is actually one single crystal. When the air is pumped out of the pressure chamber, the only thing left in the vessel is the seed crystal and water vapor. A custom peltier cooler inside with an attached heat sink serves a double purpose, both to keep the ice crystal cold (and growing) and to heat up a small pool of water at the bottom of the vessel to increase the amount of water vapor in the chamber, which will eventually be deposited onto the crystal in the specific hexagonal shape.

The build is interesting to watch, and since the ice crystal growth had to be filmed inside of a freezer there’s perhaps a second hack here which involved getting the camera gear set up in that unusual environment. Either way, the giant snowball of an ice crystal eventually came out of the freezer after many tries, and isn’t the first time we’ve seen interesting applications for custom peltier coolers, either.

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Prism Lighting – The Art Of Steering Daylight

The incandescent light bulb was one of the first early applications of electricity, and it’s hard to underestimate its importance. But before the electric light, people didn’t live in darkness — they thought of ways to redirect sunlight to brighten up interior spaces. This was made possible through the understanding of the basic principles of optics and the work of skilled glassmakers who constructed prism tiles, deck prisms, and vault lights. These century-old techniques are still being applied today for the diffusion of LEDs or for increasing the brightness of LCD displays.

Semantics First!

People in optics are a bit sloppy when it comes to the definition of a prism. While many of them are certainly not geometric prisms, Wikipedia defines it as a transparent optical element with flat, polished surfaces of which at least one is angled. As can be seen in the pictures below some of the prisms here do not even stick to this definition. Browsing the catalog of your favorite optics supplier you will find a large variety of prisms used to reflect, invert, rotate, disperse, steer, and collimate light. It is important to point out that we are not so much interested in dispersive prisms that split a beam of white light into its spectrum of colors, although they make great album covers. The important property of prisms in this article is their ability to redirect light through refraction and reflection.

A Safe Way to Bring Light Under Deck

A collection of deck lights used to direct sunlight below deck in ships. Credit:

One of the most important uses of prism lighting was on board ships. Open flames could have disastrous consequences aboard a wooden ship, so deck prisms were installed as a means to direct sunlight into the areas below decks. One of the first patents for deck lights “THE GREAT AND DURABLE INCREASE OF LIGHT BY EXTRAORDINARY GLASSES AND LAMPS” was filed by Edward Wyndus as early as 1684. Deck prisms had typical sizes of 10 to 15 centimeters. The flat top was installed flush with the deck and the sunlight was refracted and directed downward from the prism point. Because of the reversibility of light paths (“If I can see you, you can see me”) deck prisms also helped to spot fires under deck. Continue reading “Prism Lighting – The Art Of Steering Daylight”