When I built the The Ultimate Smartphone-Controlled Portable Raspberry Pi Camera, I was actually thinking about how we could whip up a dashboard camera for a motorbike, as suggested by our social media manager plowe. As it came together, I started to realise it could have a lot of different project applications, so here are a few cool reasons for making your own Portable Pi Camera.
Most of these could use some kind of enclosure for the camera since your outside, but that's a different subject.
But I also want to hear about any other project ideas you might have in the comments section below.
Memory Lapse Camera
By adding a longer FFC/ribbon cable, maybe around a meter long if you can find one, this would make for a memory aid that I'd like to call a Memory Lapse camera.
You put the Raspberry Pi 3 and powerbank in your pocket and thread the camera up under your shirt, pinning it in place at chest height. Alternatively, it could be in a bag, mounted in a top hat (good for the tech-loving steampunks out there) or anywhere else about your person.
Set it off in time lapse mode with around a 10 second interval, and at the end of the day you'll have a gallery of photos of whatever you've been doing, taken from your perspective. A good way to either try and remember what you've been up to, or particularly useful for conventions, events and gatherings so you don't have to constantly get your camera out to take photos.
Get yourself a USB adapter for the cigarette lighter to power your Portable Pi Camera, and you can mount this on the front dashboard of your car, the parcel shelf, or even on a motorbike as previously discussed.
Obviously you'll need to set it off either recording video or in time lapse mode before you start driving, but you've then got a record of your journey and any events (unfortunate or otherwise) that occur on the road.
For bikers (and cyclists), the Portable Pi Camera could be mounted on you, instead of the bike if it's more convenient.
Pedestrian's Rear View Mirror
You're walking down the street and don't feel too good about the people behind you? Mount your Portable Pi Camera in a backpack, of even on yourself as with the Memory Lapse Camera, and you've got a live view of what's behind you when you look at your smartphone.
And you could even swap the Pi Camera V2 for a Pi NoIR Camera V2 if you're walking around at night, so you get excellent night vision. And should you feel insecure at all, you could always start recording a video so you've got the faces of anyone unsavoury should you need the evidence later on
But this is useful, or just fun, even if you aren't using it as a security measure, of course. It makes me think of the high-tech cigarette packet used by Arnie in True Lies.
Mobile Security Camera System
The value of CCTV cameras is obvious, but they usually need to be networked to some central point in order to view or record the footage.
Your Portable Pi Camera could easily be employed in as a temporary CCTV camera that can be located absolutely anywhere, though. Just put it in position, set it off going, and collect it later when you want the footage it's recorded. You can use the built-in motion detection as a way to set off recordings only when something moves, too, so you're not needlessly filling the SD card.
It'd be pretty easy to build it into an inconspicuous item too, like a clock, book, teddy bear or anything else that's regularly found lying around your home, office or even outdoors.
Actually, didn't Arnie do this in True Lies too?
Remote Controlled Photography
Timers are useful on your digital camera, but if, like much of the world, you now use your smartphone for day-to-day photography a timer isn't as much use. True, the camera app usually has a time, but positioning your phone so it'll actually stand up is enough to make it almost unusable.
Using the Portable Pi Camera you could stand it wherever you want, check the image from afar on your phone, and use the on-screen buttons to take a photo whenever your group is ready. No running back and forth, or all standing there with a cheesy smile until your faces are aching, only to realise you never pressed the button before running back and taking up position!
Time Lapse Recordings
Again, there are plenty of smartphone apps that'll let you take time lapse videos, but do you really want to leave your phone stood in position all day to get the recording? But this is a convenient way to solve that problem.
Set up the Portable Pi Camera in position, check it on the phone's screen and set the time lapse off recording. The app will even convert it into a video afterwards that can be downloaded directly to your phone, or you can get a zip file with all the individual photos it's taken.
And if you want to check on its progress at any point during the time lapse recording, you can do it from a distance without disturbing the camera's position.
Got any other ideas about what a Portable Pi Camera might achieve? Tell us all about them in the comments section below.