The Raspberry Pi is one of the most versatile gadgets around. You can use it to make a full PC or something as wacky as a beer can keyboard. The more you play with it, the more things you discover.
Take, for example, the Raspberry Pi camera module. It costs about $20 and is available for all versions of the Raspberry Pi. And the number of things you can do with it are only limited by your imagination.
We’ve already talked about some of the basic projects with a Pi camera module, but there’s a lot more you can do. Take, for instance, these weird and wonderful projects that other developers have made. All of these come with instructions so you can have a go yourself.
Some people find a video camera on the door to be too imposing or intrusive. Instead, one Redditor made a “peephole camera” that looks through the little viewing hole of your door. He had a few specific reasons for making it:
- “My daughter is too short to look through the hole unadded.”
- “I travel and want to see who’s there.”
- “I can now check the door when I’m on the can by using Tinycam Monitor on my phone.”
The project is surprisingly easy, and a good way to start off your Pi camera experiments. You’ll get a feel of what you can do, while making a truly useful item. He used a Raspberry Pi, an 8 GB memory card, and a Pi camera module, along with a few cables to connect the power and so on.
The project uses one of the most popular guides to make an HD video surveillance camera, designed by Christoph Buenger. You’ll find this guide referenced often in any Pi Camera experiments, so get used to it.
Once you’re done with the Peephole Camera setup, you can move on to other surveillance projects like the DIY pan-and-tilt network security camera.
Modern technology lets you record your life and log every aspect of it. The cheapest way to get started with it is through a Pi Camera setup. One of the most popular YouTube DIY-ers, Noe Ruiz, came up with a wearable Pi Zero camera, and showed how you can make it.
For the uninitiated, the Pi Zero is a $5 miniaturized version of the Raspberry Pi. It handles all the basic functions that a full-fledged Pi would. We already know that you can turn the Pi into a time-lapse photo rig. Ruiz’s setup uses this to turn the Pi Zero into a wearable timelapse camera that captures your day.
The only downside to this one is that you will need access to a 3D printer. The case for the camera needs to be printed out, so find your local hackerspace and head there if you need to. You’ll also need to learn how to solder, if you aren’t already proficient in it.
A car dashboard cam, or “dashcam” for short, is one of the smartest investments you can make for your vehicle. It’s how you can back up what you say in court, not to mention a good way of reliving your road trips. But why buy one when you can make it yourself for a fraction of the cost?
Instructables user Vijay Guna made a smart dashcam that is completely automated. It switches on when you start the car, stops when you switch off the engine, and records videos in segments of 30 minutes. The videos are stored for a month, and then automatically purged. And you can check the footage at any time with an Android smartphone.
Vijay has step-by-step instructions for the whole setup, which shouldn’t cost you more than $100. It’ll probably be closer to $80. Of course, you can instead buy the right dashcam for you, but this is far cheaper and automated.
The glory days of the Polaroid are behind us, as we went digital. But we lost some of the charm along the way. You can’t take a photo, print it out immediately, and scribble a note on it. If you’ve ever got one of these, you’ll realize how precious they are. Here’s how to get that magic back.
One genius hooked up a Raspberry Pi, the Pi camera module, and a thermal printer. The end result is an instant camera much like Polaroid. Of course, a thermal printer doesn’t use the same quality of photo paper, nor does it have the same quality of printing. But it’s a good enough image when you consider it’s printed almost immediately.
Sure, your smartphone camera can make life easier, but we’re not talking about pure utility here. There’s a romance to the Polaroid instant camera that you can finally bring back here.
Forget Alibaba’s “Open Sesame” password. The modern treasure trove opens only when it recognizes your face. Meet the face-recognizing treasure box, which uses a Pi Camera to detect your face, and only then unlocks itself.
It’s one of the coolest Pi camera-based projects we have seen, with real practical utility. You’ll need some specific materials for this one, like a box that uses a simple latching mechanism and has hinges on the outside. You’ll also need Adafruit’s lock solenoid, along with other items specified in the full guide. But put everything together and you have the most secure treasure box that no one but you can open.
This is a slightly advanced build, so you might need help from some of the best resources for Raspberry Pi owners. The guide is clear enough, but beginners probably shouldn’t try this.
Other Cool Pi Camera Projects
The five projects noted above take you from beginner to advanced levels of what you can do with the Pi camera. Here are a few other projects you might want to try out.
- Build a motion-capture security camera system.
- Security cam that sends a text and photo when alarm is triggered.
- Self-sustaining time-lapse camera.
- Make a stop-motion video rig with the Pi.
- LEGO Raspberry Pi camera rig.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, you know. If you’re made something cool with the Raspberry Pi camera module, or have seen a fascinating project online, we want to know. Drop us a link in the comments below!