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Adding IP webcams
Monday, 15 January 2007
This is my first 'enthusiast project' for the 914. You may have noted from my previous forum posts that I'm a big fan of the IP Webcam. Basically this is a webcam with a built in webserver that you connect directly to the network and enables you to view it's video in a Java applet with a web browser in real time. Previous forum posts have discussed the high CPU load while using a USB cam for video streaming, or the delay caused by Windows Media services due to buffering and compression.

Click on the picture on the left to see the rest of the pictures in the Gallery.

Since the IP Webcams I have are not wireless capable, they must be connected to a wired network, which is not really practical for mobile robotics I hear you saying... However, using the 'network bridging' features of both Windows XP Home and XP Pro (Linux too), you are able to connect wired network devices to the spare wired LAN port on your mini-itx motherboard and bridge this connection through to the wireless USB adapter you have connected for general wireless access to the 914. Check out this Microsoft article on setting up a network bridge between wired and wireless networks. It's really very easy and will allow any wired network device to share the wireless connection on the 914.

After I had made one IP webcam work by connecting it straight to the wired LAN port (Note: you will need a cross-over type network cable to do this), I went on to add a network hub and a second IP webcam. They both worked together happily while configured on their unique IPs. Accessing them is exactly the same as if they were part of the wired network. Obviously it only works when the PC inside the 914 is turned on as network bridging is taken care of by a Windows service that has to be up and running.

Overall the results are very pleasing, positioning the two cams in the correct place gives you a much better idea of what's going on as you can point one up / one down, or each in opposite directions to get a panoramic view. Each cam runs from 5 volts so I just spliced into a spare disk power connecter and found some power leads from my local electronics store that had the right sized DC power jack to fit the cams.

This is of course really aimed at telepresence applications, rather than autonomous navigation. A good improvement may be to add a stick to the top of the 914 with at least one cam at the top, maybe even a remote operated pan / tilt mechanism so you can look up and down etc as required.

This article will remain in the Enthusiast Projects section.

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