Saturday, April 13, 2013

Javalin Camera

Ok, last posting on cameras for a while.  With the faster video cameras we wanted to test it 'in action' but just not on a chicken.

One of the boys was practicing his javalin throw for track... so, we did a test run.

The camera worked great.  Having 60 fps made a BIG difference on the video - it was good to slow it down and very little was lost as the javalin flew.  Good news for when it is on a bird...  Here is a frame capture of the stick in-flight.  The camera is small enough to have no effect on the stick or the thrower.

Our setup was simple.  1000 mile tape, camera, and javalin.  Easy Peasy.

Adding Touchy-Feelly to a Glock

Seems like alot of our projects lately are gun-oriented.  I guess we do alot more shooting in the winter... but fishing and gardening are picking up, so we'll have more variety soon.  In the meantime, with all the camera/laser/smartphone projects we thought it would be cool to add a combined power supply, and get rid of so many buttons.  Why not add "touch sense" to the gun and have all the fun stuff turn on automatically?

So, here we go!

The foil strip acts as a capacitive sensor, and the microcontroller measures the change in voltage when a big, hairy human approaches.

 With the foil along side of the magazine in the handle, the microcontroller can easily detect when the handgun is picked up.  Right now it just lights an LED, but soon, it will turn on a laser and start the video camera.  A very small wire is all that is needed for the sensor - not a big piece of foil.  Plus, the Glock has a nice 'compartment' in the handle big enough for a microcontroller, battery, etc.

This project came out of another project... We have been experimenting with different objects to detect when a person (or a cow) is near.  One way is using an electric fence - its already strung around the pasture, so we measured the sensor changes as a person or the cow approached.

It was fun to see just how sensitive we could make the device.  It would be cool to detect if a dog or coyote came into the pasture and play a recording to shoo it off.  Or, to keep the fence off unless the cow approached, then turn it on.

Always something to try or experiment with.

IDPA Shooting Camera

Some friends are doing more and more IDPA shooting - competitive handgun shooting in 'dynamic' environments.  Very fun to do and fun to watch.

So... of course, lets put on a camera!

Several options we are using - our favorite is the high-speed (60 fps) camera integrated with the laser.  The laser showes up VERY bright on the video (CCD sensors are very sensitive to the laser), and with the faster framerates, we can get some good analysis and followup after the shooting to take notes on what to do differently.

Glocks are our platform of choice - because of shooting preferences and with the integrated picatinny rail.  Here is a 3D print we did of a custom camera mount.  Very light and very strong.  The next prototypes are even better!

The faster camera is larger, but not much heavier.  We are building a new 3D print to remove the bulkiness of the camera and house the camera electronics.  Make it smaller and lighter.

This is a nice profile - with a larger holster it fits and draws very well.  Our next housing will be smaller and smoother for drawing.

Another project to stay tuned for.  We are looking into building an aluminum mount as well for more 'rigorous' shooting environments.  Here is a side-mount we have for carbines.

These cameras are much less expensive, lighter, and easier to use 'in action' than the GoPro cameras.  The GoPro are very nice, but alittle too nice for when we are shooting!  If you are interested drop us an email for more info at  

Or stay tuned - we should have some video to upload soon...

Before the Chicken...

Ok, birds are alot of fun - to watch, to feed, and to learn about.  Even chickens.  Even before they are chickens.  Before the chicken, we find the egg.  And within the egg, we find... its nucleus.

Its funny if you watch Nacho Libre alot...

Anyway - a friend asked about measuring the heartbeat / pulse of a chick embryo while still in the egg.  There are several ways to do it and the simplest would be using infrared light to detect the bird's pulse - just like the little finger sensors we use for people.

I just happened to have an IR LED array, and with a handful of feed we distracted the hens long enough to get an egg.  Easy!

Using a digital camera, here is the IR image we see.  Not sure if the camera isn't sensitive enough to the IR light, or if the shell is too thick.  Maybe more power to the LEDs?

 Next we tried the battery from the backhoe to boost the IR power...

Dazzling!  Very cool to see the IR playing with the camera...

 But alas, not any better resolution into the egg with the camera.  Next we tried a 300 lumen flashlight - now we can see inside... but on this egg there isn't much to see.  Unfertilized but not 'uninteresting'.

We'll keep experimenting with this.  I have some other IR sensors to try that we use to measure light values underwater, so we'll see if the IR detector can see a pulse easier than the CCD camera.

The hens are still busy, so we can get more eggs, too...

Helmet Camera Update

After playing around with cameras on our chickens, its time for something more action-packed.  We've been working with a friend to put a video camera on a falcon.  So far we have a simple prototype, but more to come!

There are several different camera options we are working on, too - lots of mods to make it lighter and smaller... here is some of the hardware we are 'tweeking'.  One of the camera's we have will do 60 frames per second, and so far in our testing, it is working great!  Very nice quality, and the faster FPS will keep up with the birds as they hunt - and they hunt fast! 

We put the hood on to see how she liked it... and so far, so good.  Best part of the helmet camera is that it tracks to the animal's visual focus - where they look is where the camera records.  Plus, on the head the stability of the video is excellent.  So long as the bird tolerates it...

 Here's a nice pose - she is a beautiful bird!

 Stay tuned - this is one of our most fun projects so far.  Can't wait to share some action video!

This is the perfect engineering project, too - alot of variables, high speeds, high stress (on the equipment), weight constraints, etc.  Lots of fun.