Back in 2019 we first came across the mutantC, an open source 3D printable Raspberry Pi handheld created by [rahmanshaber] that took more than a little inspiration from Sony’s VAIO ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs) from the early 2000s. It was an impressive first effort, but it clearly had a long way to go before it could really be a practical mobile device.
Well after two years of development and three iterative versions of this Linux powered QWERTY slider, [rahmanshaber] is ready to show off the new and improved mutantC_v4. Outwardly it looks quite similar to the original version, with the notable addition of a tiny thumbstick and a pair of programmable buttons on the right side that can be used for input in addition to the touch screen. But inside it’s a whole other story, with so many changes and improvements that we hardly even know where to start.
Probably the most notable improvement is the addition of an ESP32-S2, specifically a bare ESP-12K module, to the main PCB. Previous versions of the hardware used an Arduino Pro Micro to interface with all the hardware, but the added horsepower of the ESP32 should come in handy with the array of sensors, controls, and NeoPixels that [rahmanshaber] has tasked the chip with. There’s even a buzzer and a coin-style vibration motor in there to provide some feedback to the user. While the board has changed significantly, it still retains compatibility with the Pi Zero, 2, 3, and 4.
Another notable addition is the expansion connector on the bottom of the handheld that has pins for I2C, UART, and 3.3 V. In the video below, [rahmanshaber] mentions that this feature was previously implemented with a standard 2×6 female header block, but is now using a far slimmer female USB-C port. We do wonder if it’s not a bit confusing to have this faux-USB port right next to the real one that’s actually used to charge the system, but with such cramped quarters occasionally you’ve got to make some tough decisions like that.
The prevalence of drones has made airborne photography much more widespread, especially among hobby photographers and videographers. However, drone photos aren’t without their problems. You have to deal with making the drone follow the shot which can be difficult unless you have a very expensive one. Worse, you can’t really fly a drone through heavily wooded or otherwise obstructed terrain.
[Makesome’s] friend faced these issues and wanted to buy a cable cam — a mount for the camera that could go back and forth on a cable strung between two trees or other structures. Instead of a design from scratch, they decided to cannibalize a cheap RC car along with an HP printer and the effect — as you can see in the video below — is pretty good.
Repurposing toys is an honored tradition and, after all, what do you need but a motor that goes forward and reverses? We can’t help but notice though that toy hacking is much easier now that you can 3D print custom widgets to connect everything together.
Last year, we brought you word of the MutantC by [rahmanshaber]. The Raspberry Pi handheld was more than a little inspired by the classic T-Mobile Sidekick, with a sliding display and physical QWERTY keyboard. The design was a little rough around the edges and missing a few key features, but it was clear the project had a lot of potential.
The major improvement over the original is the inclusion of a battery, which makes the device truly mobile. This was something that we mentioned [rahmanshaber] was working on back when he released the first version, as it was easily the most requested feature from the community. We certainly wouldn’t say a miniature handheld computer is completely useless if it has to stay tethered, but there’s no arguing that being able to take it on the go is ideal.
This upgraded version of the design now officially supports the Raspberry Pi 4 as well, which previously [rahmanshaber] was advising against due to overheating concerns. Slotting in the latest-and-greatest edition of every hacker’s favorite Linux single board computer will definitely kick things up a notch, though we imagine the older and less power hungry iterations of the Pi will be plenty for the sort of tasks you’re likely to be doing on a gadget like this.
In this day and age, where all leisure activities must be duly captured and monetized online, camera sliders are hot items. Many start with a simple manual build, before graduating to something motorized for more flexibility. [Saral Tayal] took things a step further, implementing a basic tracking mode for even sweeter shots.
The build is mechanically simple, relying on 8mm steel rods and linear bearings more typically found in 3D printers. An Arduino Uno is pressed into service to run the show, outfitted with an OLED screen to run the interface. A RoboClaw motor controller is used to control the geared DC motors used, one controlling the linear motion, the other the rotation of the camera.
With encoders fitted to the motors, the RoboClaw controller enables the Arduino to track the position and rotation of the slider as it moves. The slider then can be given the position of an object relative to itself. With a little maths, it will rotate the camera to track the object as it moves along.
Creating capacitive touch-sensitive buttons is easy these days; many microcontrollers have cap-sense hardware built-in. This will work for simple on/off control, but what if you want a linear, position-sensitive input, like you’d find on a computer touchpad or your smartphone screen? Not so easy — at least until now. Trill is a family of capacitive touch sensors you can add to your projects as a linear slider, a square touchpad, or by creating your own touch surface.
Trill was created by the same team that designed Bela, an embedded platform for low-latency interactive applications, especially with audio. The new trio of Trill sensors rely on capacitive sensing to track finger movement, and communicate over I2C with your microcontroller or development board of choice. The Trill I2C library targets Arduino and Bela, but should be easy to port to any I2C host.
The hardware and software are both open-source — or will be as the Kickstarter that launched this morning has already met its goal. The firmware for the Cypress CY8C20636A (PDF) controller that powers these sensors will be released CC-BY-NC-SA. But, starting with the controller itself sounds like a lot of work that Trill has already done for you, so let’s have a look at what we know so far, along with a healthy dose of speculation.
Camera sliders are a popular build, and properly executed they can make for impressive shots for both time-lapse sequences or real-time action. But they seem best suited for long shots, as dollying a camera in a straight line just moves subjects close to the camera through the frame.
This slider with both pan and tilt axes can make moving close-ups a lot easier. With his extremely detailed build log, [Dejan Nedalkovski] shows how he went about building his with only the simplest of materials and tools. The linear rail is simply a couple of pieces of copper pipe supported by an MDF frame. The camera trolley rides the rails on common skateboard bearings and is driven by a NEMA-17 stepper, as are the pan and tilt axes. [Dejan] also provided a barn-door style pivot to tilt the camera relative to the rails, allowing the camera to slide up and down an inclined plane for really interesting shots. The controller uses an Arduino and a joystick to drive the camera manually, or the rig can be programmed to move smoothly between preset points.
This is a step beyond a simple slider and feels a little more like full-blown motion control. We’ve got a feeling some pretty dramatic shots would be possible with such a rig, and the fact that it’s a simple build is just icing on the cake.
We’ve all gone through it. You buy a kit or even an assembled consumer item, and it’s either not quite right or it’s only a part of what you need. Either you do a fix, or you add to it. In [Jeremy S. Cook’s] case, he’d been working for a while with a camera slider kit which came with just the slider. He’d added a motor and limit switches but turning it on/off and reversing direction were still done by manipulating alligator clips. Now he’s put together some far better, and more professional-looking controls.
He started by replacing the DC motor with a servo motor modified for continuous rotation. Then he built a circuit around an Arduino Nano for controlling the motor and put it all in a carefully made box which he bolted to the side of the slider. A switch built into the box turns it on and off, and a potentiometer sets the direction of the slider. While not necessarily new, we do like when we see different approaches being taken, and in this case, he’s using magnets to not only hold the case’s cover on for easy access, but also a couple of them to hold the 9-volt battery in place. Check out his construction process and the new slider in action in the video below.