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webcam microscope hacks at bosslab

December 13, 2009

100ideas

Shaunalynn Duffy, Alec Resnick, and David Thompson lean closer as the ucam's image comes into focus. The camera cost $10 and took 5 minutes to hack.

Shaunalynn Duffy, Alec Resnick, and David Thompson lean closer as the ucam's image comes into focus. The camera cost $10 and took 5 minutes to hack.

We hacked $10 webcams into microscopes, a la Hackteria.org at the bosslab + sprout. Yashas Shetty, Jason Bobe, Rich Pell, Myself, and others are planning a worldwide webcam hacking day on January 30th, in conjunction with the UCLA “Outlaw Bio” symposium.

@molecularist (Charlie Schick) posted a great writeup with some photos on his blog.

hello world, ucam style

@jasonbobe was the first to have a cam connected to his laptop and the lens unscrewed and inverted.

Jason testing the ucam: lens unscrewed and inverted (but not screwed in upside down), clipped to laptop screen (too much vibration), with a alligator clamp holding a microscope slide above the camera

Jason testing the ucam: lens unscrewed and inverted, clipped to laptop screen, with an alligator clamp holding a microscope slide above the camera (consider vibration and focal point).

A droplet of saliva dripped onto a microscope slide held above the webcam/microscope (microcam? u-cam? ucam?) showed up as amorphous blobs: Hello World! The inverted lens resting on top of the camera chasis seemed to have a focal plane somewhere inside the lens body.  This is when we realized we should screw the lens into the chasis in reverse.

detail of Jason Bobes laptop w/ skype; ucam clipped to screen, lens inverted but not inserted backwards; microscope slide held by alligator clamp

detail of Jason Bobe's laptop w/ skype; soon this ucam will be broadcasting microscopic images all across the world...

@jayunit & David Thompson built an ad-hoc microscope slide holder out of a block of insulator foam, a pencil, two black binder clips, a bolt, a nut, and a washer. By rotating the nut (or holding the nut and rotating the bolt), we could raise and lower the height of the microscope slide.

the nut on the bolt controls the height of the slide above the camera.  Unscrew the lens from this particular $10 usb webcam, open the camera body, reverse the lens and screw it back through the camera body inside out, and voila, instant microscope.

the nut on the bolt controls the height of the slide above the camera. Unscrew the lens from this particular $10 usb webcam, open the camera body, reverse the lens and screw it back through the camera body inside out, and voila, instant microscope.

I hacked together some rudimentary processing code to access the usb microscope. It seemed to be more reliable than quicktime (or skype) and I was excited about using my favorite blob-detection library on the microscope feed.

You can grab the source here: ucam.

To get the focal plane outside of the lens assembly, we unscrewed the 2 small machine screws holding the camera body together to open the camera then and screwed the camera lens back into the housing from the inside-out such that the the lens was reversed. The part of the lens that had originally been closest to the CCD was now outside the camera body. Then screwed the housing back together.

By rotating the lens and and the nut on the slide holder, we were able to intersect the focal plane of the ucam with the microscope slide. it works!

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8182346&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1

ucam hello world: looking at streetwater and blood from mac cowell on Vimeo.

12 Dec 2009 – wiki notes.

9 Comments

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  1. December 16, 2009

    hei bosslab,

    nice work. just got back from taipei where did another diy microscopy workshop during playaround.cc

    made some awesome instruments. gonna update it on the hackteria as soon as i can.

    for tracking check tbeta, words great with the little bugs.

    dusjagr

  2. December 17, 2009

    Great to see that you guys were able to progress after I left. Great sleuthing for a solution!

  3. December 24, 2009

    I’m attempting to view this in the 5.3.354 rc of the BOLT browser and the background looks sorta broken up. I’d advise you it out.

  4. Tito #
    December 30, 2009

    Cool hack. Were you able define anything you saw? I wasn’t sure if the little moving balls turned out to be blood cells or not.

    Also, what was up with the image quality? Is the webcam really that bad or was it something else?

    Tito

    • Russell #
      January 28, 2010

      These things are wicked hard to get into focus. We’re building a Lego platform to hold the slide and using a USB led to illuminate from below. See you on Saturday!

  5. Antal #
    January 30, 2010

    Great stuff! Could anyone provide me with that processing file to interface the webcam? my computer does recognize but does not display the webcam.
    Thanx!

    • mac #
      January 31, 2010

      You can grab the source here: ucam.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Hack $10 Dollar Web Cams Into Microscopes « Binary Heap
  2. Center for PostNatural History

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