[Calango] is a railway technician, and for a school final project created the Rail Wear Surveillance Trolley (RWST) which is a delightfully designed device made mainly from PVC conduit with one job: travel down a segment of train track while shining a green laser onto the rail, and capture camera images. The trolley holds both the laser and the camera at just the right angles for the camera to capture a profile of the rail’s curved surface. The images are sent via Bluetooth to a smartphone for later analysis. Rail wear can be judged by checking how well the profile of the rail conforms to the ideal profile of an unworn segment. The trolley is manually pushed by an operator, but [Calango] says that ideally, it would be self-propelled and able to inspect a length of the track then return on its own.
The project was made on a tight budget, which led to some clever solutions like using a rotary encoder attached to a wheel as a makeshift distance sensor. If things get desperate enough, it’s even possible to roll your own rotary encoder with a 3D printer and two microswitches.
[Oitzu] in Germany wrote in to let us know about a series of short but very informative blog posts in which he describes building a series of solar-powered, networked birdhouses with the purpose of spying on the life that goes on within them. He made just one at first, then expanded to a small network of them. They work wonderfully, and [Oitzu]’s documentation will be a big help to anyone looking to implement any of the same elements – which include a Raspberry Pi in one unit as a main gateway, multiple remote units in other birdhouses taking pictures and sending those to the Pi over an nRF24L01+ based radio network, and having the Pi manage uploading those images using access to the mobile network. All with solar power.
Continue reading “Networked Solar Birdhouses Deep in the Woods”
Last month we saw [Ibrahim] tackle the lack of cheap, high speed, high resolution serial cameras with full force. He designed a serial camera based on the STM32F4 microcontroller that’s the perfect solution to anyone wanting to add visual processing or machine vision to a project. It’s cheap, too: instead of the $100 or so you’d spend on a high-end serial camera, [Ibrahim]’s version only has about $15 in parts.
Now he’s back at it again, with 25 FPS face detection, 30 FPS color detection, a new board with a micro SD socket, and support for USB OTG full speed. [Ibrahim] has been hard at work deep in the bowels of the STM32F4 micro, playing around with the core coupled memory. This allows for some very fast image processing, combined with the micro running at 168 MHz makes for very fast face and color detection.
As for a few benchmarks for this camera, the maximum resolution is 1280×1024, and at 88×72 resolution this little board can output at 60 FPS. Of course everything is limited by the speed of the serial connection, but there’s a lot of potential in this small serial camera.
No word on how much this board will cost, but [Ibrahim] may be putting a few boards up on Tindie shortly. Here’s to hoping he’ll send us an email telling us when his store is open.
If your next project does anything with cameras or machine vision, you’ll probably be looking at something like a USB webcam attached to an ARM board or a netbook. Sometimes, though, that setup blows will blow your budget – power or otherwise – out of the water. For small projects, you’re limited to small, serial-accessible cameras, and in that domain you really don’t have a lot of choices.
[Ibrahim] realized the cheapest serial cameras are about $35, and with basic image processing that cost skyrockets up to about $100. He set out to build his own alternative, and ended up with an awesome serial camera module that should only cost about $15 in quantity.
The module is built around an STM32F4 microcontroller running at 168 MHz. This micro has a DCMI port to which a OV9650 camera is attached. The resolution ends up being 1280×1024, far better than other serial cameras.
Already [Ibrahim] has the hardware working and a few demo apps. He has a real time color tracking demo (video below) up and running and a machine vision repo for his tiny camera. Now if we could only get a few of these boards on Tindie.
Continue reading “Building A Better Serial Camera”
PS1 hombrew competition
The PlayStation Development Network is hosting a six-month long competition to develop homebrew games for the original PlayStation.We don’t get many homebrew games for old systems in our tip line, so if you’d like to show something off, send it in.
This is how you promote a kickstarter
[Andy] has been working on an SNES Ethernet adapter and he’s finally got it working. Basically, it’s an ATMega644 with a Wiznet adapter connected to the second controller port. The ATMega sends… something, probably not packets… to the SNES where it is decoded with the help of some 65816 assembly on a PowerPak development cartridge. Why is he doing this? To keep track of a kickstarter project, of course.
What exactly is [Jeri] building?
[Jeri] put up an awesome tutorial going over the ins and outs of static and dynamic flip-flops. There’s a touch of historical commentary explaining why dynamic registers were used so much in the 70s and 80s before the industry switched over to static designs (transistors were big back then, and dynamic systems needed less chip area). At the end of her video, [Jeri] shows off a bucket-brigade sequencer of sort that goes through 15 unique patterns. We’re just left wondering what it’s for.
Finally, a camera for the Raspberry Pi
In case you weren’t aware, the camera board for the Raspberry Pi will be released sometime early next year. Not wanting to wait a whole month and a half, [Jouni] connected a LinkSprite JPEG serial camera to his Raspberry Pi. The whole thing actually works, but [Jouni] didn’t bother posting the code. Maybe we can encourage him to do so?
Blatant advertising? Yes, but fireballs
Nintendo gave [MikenGary] a Wii U and asked them to make a film inspired by 30 years of Nintendo lore and characters. They did an awesome job thanks in no small part to Hackaday boss man [Caleb](supplied the fire), writer [Ryan] (costume construction) and a bunch of people over at the Squidfoo hackerspace.