Posted by: Josh | September 29, 2008

Atomaton, an atonomous sentry (almost)

This project is pretty much my biggest undertaking and has been under iterative development since early 2006. The overall idea is to be able to cause some mechanical response, be it running a motor or rotating the webcam, in response to object movement. Perhaps extrapolate this to one day be like the Mars Rover, with a wireless router on its back as a link between us and it.

It actually started out as several Java projects, which can be broken down into a couple functional components:

  1. Object recognition – use of a webcam and Java’s Media Framework library to capture images, and then perform some self-derived object and motion detection on them. In 2007 my good friend and then roommate Lee had also been contributing.

  2. Parallel port control – I didn’t know how to decode serialized data on the hardware side (for a serial or USB controller), so I ended up manipulating pins 2 – 9 using a Java library I found called ParPort. This part of the project let me dabble with circuit design. Right now it just consists of a parallel port interfacer and a H-bridge (with accompanying logic).
It’s also possible to hook up the mouse’s co-ordinates to be positioned relative to a tracked object – I had played one very sad match of Halo with two pieces of coloured paper to test this out back in 2006 (inspired by the PS2’s eyetoy and Minority Report).

Basically, I am aspiring to do this:

Minus the gun, of course. A laser pointer would be sufficient.


  1. An interesting undertaking. I’ll be watching for complete success.

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