Let's Make Robots!

Camera that can do everything - call for suggestions

I need your suggestions and recommendations.

What if I were to buy a fancy camera for a robot? I want it to be able to do pretty much everything. And still fit on my robot.

Let's see first what "everything" means. This list can grow as you make suggestions in the comments.

  1. shoot video at nice resolutions
  2. store video locally on digital media
  3. send live video over a cable to a computer
  4. send live video over a wireless link to a user far away (up to, say, 250 meter)
  5. visible light only
  6. daylight conditions
  7. survive a rain shower
  8. be light weight (not sure how light it must be exactly)
  9. shoot stills at nice resolutions
  10. store stills locally on digital media
  11. local media are accessible over cable to computer
  12. camera can be operated by micro controller or proper computer over a cable
  13. create time lapsed series of stills or videos
  14. <your suggestion here>

Some of these requirements are ridiculous, I know. But for a hacker, all or most of them should be makable. I could take a standard device and throw a micro controller at it. Or a mini computer. Or a RC receiver. Or a video transmitter. Or a combination of those.

How would I connect all those extras to a camera? All suggestions are welcome: cameras, web shops, howtos, examples, cool videos, first hand experiences and anecdotes.

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Most underrated comment so far...

Mobile phones are powerful, can shoot HD video and stills, are light, have wireless and wired connection to access data, have an open dev framework, and can be controlled via the internet fairly easily.  I think you can aslo get some nice waterproof cases for them.

A system with a camera can become expensive quickly. I wanted to do such a thing and to make it less expensive, I've bought a Chumby One (was on sale for $69 in the States, I asked a firend to buy one and ship it to me) then I got a small driver free (more like commonly already OS embeded driver) webcam to mount on a pan/tilt system that will be controled by a uBotino controller. The Chumby uses the built in serial port to talk to the uBotino to drive the robot, read the distance sensors and move the servos. The cost of the whole robot is about $180-200. It is the same thing Rogue is talking about. Now my problem is that I have almost no experience with Linux stuff and is hard to even comprehend what others have done to use vision on a Chumby. It will take time, but eventually I'll get there. If you're thinking to get such a system, you also have the option to use an Insignia 8 device (from Best Buy - on sale for $99) that offers a bigger touch screen and more USB ports, same OS easily hackable as the new Chumby 8. 

Have you asked NASA if you can rumage through their junkbox? :P

I would personally use a single board linux computer (SBC) running on an ARM processor paired with a USB webcamera.  You'll have to create an IR filter and water-resistant case, but you can easily store all your videos and still shots locally and upload to a computer via wifi or ethernet, not to mention a live video feed over wifi.  For some good SBCs that can run Debian Linux you can check out embeddedarm.com, which aren't too large or heavy and have host USB and ethernet connections, among many other features (WiFi can be accomplished on these using a dongle).

Maybe this is not the road you want to take, but if not an ARM then what kind of microcontroller, an  8-bit?