Mobile webcam

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Mobile webcam in this sense means a robot equipped with a webcam that you can control over the internet. It could be a pretty useful and fun thing to have, right? At the moment there are some mobile webcams on the market. Each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses.

Spykee

Meccano Spykee

Spykee is a robot kit made by Meccano/Erector. When built it's a robot with a wireless webcam that can be controlled remotely. In order to control it over the internet a wifi router is needed and the robot has to be registered at spykeeworld.com.

The approach used in this robot is following. The robot has to be connected to your home wireless network to control it over the internet. A special console application has to be installed on the remote computer in order to connect it to your Spykee.

This console application comes in two versions. One is designed for PCs running Windows and the other is designed for Macs. The robot has a 320x240 webcam with no zoom. Also it is not possible to adjust the vertical angle of the camera remotely.

I've written a separate article on Spykee. If you are interested in this robot and would like to find out more, go there.

Rovio


A picture by WowWee.com, released under Creative Commons license.>Rovio made by WowWee is another popular mobile webcam. If Spykee is designed more like a toy robot, this one is not. Also, the approach is a bit different. It is not required to register this robot to use it over the internet.

The robot basically hosts its own special webpage. To control the robot you have to access his "webpage". As you understand, no additional software has to be installed on the remote machine. The web browser is all that's needed. Keep in mind that the best results can be achieved using the Internet Explorer though.

Initially, some heavy criticisms were directed at it regarding the tough installation process, charging and other issues. However, it seems that WowWee constantly works on improving this robot. On the other hand, I still wouldn't recommend that you depend on it for serious applications.

Anyway, there's much more to say about this robot. If you are interested in it and would like to find out more, please go to my page on Rovio - the mobile webcam.

iRobot ConnectR

iRobot Connectr
Photo courtesy of iRobot.

Many people interested in household robotics have a good experience with iRobot's products such as Roomba, the leader in robotic vacuum field, scooba and others. So, when iRobot announced their mobile webcam it was greeted with great hopes.

It was said that it'd have a webcam with 16.7 x zoom and an ability to remotely tilt it up and down. As the previous robots mentioned, it has to be connected to the home wifi network in order to control it over the internet.

Although the iRobot's website states that it is currently tested by the participants of a pilot program, as far as I'm aware, it will not be released in its current form. Supposedly, this project was halted because it was hard to meet customers' expectations.

However, I'm pretty sure we can expect a communication robot from iRobot sooner or later.

Nikko Star Wars R2-D2 Wireless webcam

Somehow this mobile webcam is often overlooked. However, it sure is noteworthy not only because it resembles a famous fictional robot but also because it has some unique features that other mobile webcams don't have.

At first I have to say that the wireless solution used in this robot is quite different than solutions used in above mentioned robots. This robot comes with a stand that has to be connected to a computer. This stand then takes care of the wireless communication between the robot and a computer.

Also, it has an edge detection capability. Lack of this capability is often mentioned as one of the flaws of above mentioned mobile webcams, as it is pretty easy to unintentionally send them down the stairs. Also, it comes with a remote that can be used as a Skype phone.

On the down side, it seems that you have to have a local computer turned on in order to control it over the internet as the communication takes place between the robot and the local computer. However, I'm not really sure about that.

The camera angle can be adjusted remotely which is a nice feature. Anyway, if you own or buy one, please contact me and let me know what are your insights on this one.

To find out more about this and other real life robots that resemble the famous fictional robot – R2-D2, go to my article on real life R2-D2s.

Surveyor SRV-1 Blackfin

SRV1
Image source: www.surveyor.com.

Unlike other mobile webcams above, this one is not designed for general audience. Instead, this is designed for research and education. If you are looking for a mobile webcam for your project this could do the job. Let me tell you more.

This robot can be used with all major operating systems such as Windows, *nix and Mac OS. You can connect to it in an ad hoc mode or connect it to your Wi-Fi network. Then it can be accessed either through a console application, either through a web browser.

The firmware and the console application are being updated from time to time. Oh, and they are open sourced so you can adjust them to your needs. The hardware schematics are also open sourced. This makes it appropriate for research and private projects.

Furthermore, the robot is fully programmable. Also, it is possible to use the SRV-1 Blackfin robot with machine vision software RoboRealm, Microsoft Robotics Studio and mobile robotics simulation software - Webots. You can explore its manual to find out if it meets your needs.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a mobile webcam for home use, Spykee, Rovio or R2-D2 could do the job. Still, it is possible that they won't meet your expectations. To avoid unpleasant moments I suggest you to choose a shop with a favorable return policy, such as the Hammacher Schlemmer(aff link - read ad disclosure). There you can shop for Spykee and Rovio.

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