A Fantastic Raspberry Pi Handheld Just Got Better

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.

Today, we’re happy to report that [rahmanshaber] has officially released MutantC_v2. It looks like the new version of this handheld, perhaps more properly categorized as a ultra-mobile PC (UMPC), successfully addresses a number of the shortcomings found in the original; so if you held off on building one last year, you might want to start warming up the 3D printer now.

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.

If you like the idea of having a diminutive Linux computer within arm’s reach of your bench but aren’t necessarily committed enough to build something like the MutantC, there are certainly simpler designs you can get started with.

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Object Tracking Camera Slider Gets The Nice Shots

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.

It’s a simple addition to the typical slider build that greatly increases the variety of shots that can be achieved. There are plenty of ways to go about building a slider, too, as we’ve seen before. Video after the break.
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Trill: Easy Positional Touch Sensors For Your Projects

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.

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Simple Camera Slider Adds A Dimension Or Two To Your Shots

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.

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Improving Controls For A Camera Slider Kit

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.

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Pipes, Tees, And Gears Result In Smooth Video Shots

It’s depressingly easy to make bad videos, but it only takes a little care to turn that around. After ample lighting and decent audio — and not shooting in portrait — perhaps the biggest improvements come from stabilizing the camera while it’s moving. Giving your viewers motion sickness is bad form, after all, and to smooth out those beauty shots, a camera slider can be a big help.

Not all camera sliders are built alike, though, and we must admit to being baffled while first watching [Rulof Maker]’s build of a smooth, synchronized pan and slide camera rig. We just couldn’t figure out how those gears were going to be put to use, but as the video below progresses, it becomes clear that this is an adjustable pantograph rig, and that [Rulof]’s eBay gears are intended to link the two sets of pantograph arms together. The arms are formed from threaded pipe and tee fittings with bearings pressed into them, which is a pretty clever construction technique that seems highly dependent on having the good fortune to find bearings with an interference fit into the threads. But still, [Rulof] makes it work, and with a little epoxy and a fair amount of finagling, he ends up with a complex linkage that yields the desired effects. And bonus points for being able to configure the motion with small adjustments to the camera bracket pivot points.

We saw a similar pantograph slider a few months back. That one was 3D-printed and linked with timing belts, but the principles are the same and the shots from both look great.

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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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