Wifi Controlled Roving Webcam!




Introduction: Wifi Controlled Roving Webcam!

About: depotdevoid is short for The Depot Devoid of Thought, the place where you go when you lo...

**Okay I just saw a clip of the Big Bang Theory where they made crappy, sexist, voyeuristic jokes about basically this thing, and I feel really gross about it. FYI I had no idea this was a thing. DON'T LOOK UP PEOPLES' SKIRTS WITH THIS!!!**

I've had this idea rolling around in the back of my brain for a few years now that it would be pretty cool to mount a webcam on a remote control car and build a little wifi enabled Mars rover for my house. Figured it would be fun to see what the cats are doing when I'm not around, and possibly give someone a heart attack. I was never really sure how I would go about it though, as the part where I actually control the thing over the internet kind of had me stumped.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago when I was contacted by the folks at online gadget retailer gearbest and asked if I'd like some cool toys in exchange for a review. I told 'em sure, but my review had to be part of a sweet mad science project for instructables! They offered me this webcam, and I realized with its pan and tilt motors, I'd be able to bridge that final gap and build my rover!

Step 1: ESCAM

So the webcam they sent me is called an ESCAM (http://goo.gl/I4hpFZ) and goes for about $40. The build quality is quite solid and it looks good, and also comes equipped with dark activated IR LEDs for night vision. I was totally surprised with how easy getting the thing set up for wifi and internet access was. Just download their app on your phone, register on the website, then put your phone and the camera near your router and tell it to search. Bing bang boom, you've got a wifi enabled, internet accessible webcam!

You can control the thing from right in your phone or download their desktop software. I haven't tried the desktop app, but the phone app is pretty intuitive. In spite of some tricky "engrish" in the instruction manual and in the app it's very simple to use and understand.

One down side (for this project, anyway) is a slight lag between hitting a pan or tilt control and activation. When using this for its intended purpose I imagine it wouldn't really matter, but when you're using it to control a vehicle it's kind of a problem.

Taking pictures with the ESCAM was fine, but I was unable to record video for some reason. I'm not sure if it was a problem with the way the app interfaced with my Amazon Fire phone (had to side load the google play store just to download their app) or what, but I took several videos and none of them were saved.

All in all, sweet camera that by and large is perfect for my silliness. Great image resolution too!

Step 2: Materials

Besides the webcam, you're also going to need a remote control car (I found a pretty beefy one at Wal-Mart for $20), a bunch of batteries (I prefer rechargeables), and an external USB battery pack. You may also need some extra wire and such.

As far as tools, I'm sure no one familiar with my other instructables will be surprised to learn you'll need wire clippers, a screw driver, a dremel, and a hot glue gun.

Now, let's get to work!

Step 3: Dismantle the Webcam

Here's the best part, where you void any warranties!

Start unscrewing screws and see what you find. Internally, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of construction. Instead of clips, glue, and tape, it was almost entirely held together with screws, enabling me to easily disassemble it without breaking anything. The bearing salesman in me was frankly amazed to find a 6903ZZ ball bearing as the central panning pivot point. A lot of manufacturers would just use plastic on plastic with some grease, but this is an actual ball bearing that I generally see in the pedal assembly of a bicycle. Probably overkill but it would guarantee smooth, quiet operation with a long life.

The goal here is to get at the pan and tilt motors, the camera, the main circuit board, and the wifi antenna free without destroying them. I actually broke the antenna because I am a fat fingered ogre, but I was able to solder it back together.

Once everything is out and ready to rumble, lets move on to the next step.

Step 4: Disassemble the RC Car

There's a lot of superfluous stuff on this radio controlled car. Let's take it apart!

Just like the camera, start unscrewing things. No surprise, the $20 RC car from Wal-Mart is kind of a piece of crap! I ended up have to cut and rip bits of useless plastic we don't need weighing things down and getting in the way.

Once you're down to the bare bones of the car, you're ready to move to the next step.

Step 5: Set Up the Controller

If I was a more clever man, I'm sure I could have found a way to take the remote control out of the picture and interface the webcam circuit board directly with the RC car's circuit board. However, as previously mentioned, I am a clumsy ogre with hams in place of hands, so my solution is a bit of a kludge.

The tilt motor had a 3/4 disc mounted to it, and the pan motor had a gear. With my dremel, I carved the gear to look more like the pacman shaped disc on the other motor. Then, using a liberal application of hot glue and slices from a plastic pen as standoffs, I attached the motors to the remote. As they turn, the edges of the cutout on the disc and gear push the joysticks to either turn right or left, or go forward or backwards! Not perfect, but it definitely works.

Step 6: Hot Glue

All the individual parts are ready to go: you've got the chassis of the RC car, the modified controller, the USB battery, and the guts of the ESCAM. Now, your goal is to stick it all together in a way that makes some sort of sense.

Since I was unable to find a way to use the same battery pack for everything in the time I had, it was important to make sure that the battery compartments were all accessible. It's not pretty, but it's an effective rover!

Step 7: Annoy Your Cats!

Next time you're headed off to work, make sure everything's all charged up and ready to go. Fire up your phone and connect to the ESCAM. What the heck are you doing, Radio Cat!?

Step 8: Final Thoughts

As always, thanks for stopping by! I had a lot of fun with this project, and the result is pretty awesome.

I struggled a bit with it due to some time constraints and family issues, but the end result was good. If I were to redo this (or approach it again in the future), I would definitely change some things. For starters, I would like to make all the components run from the same battery pack and have some method of charging. I have visions of some sort of dock or wireless charging bay.

Also, I have an RC dinosaur I would rather mount this on that would look like a crazy reptilian GLaDOS.

Please take a moment to rate, follow me, and comment! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the results or any ideas you have to make this already awesome project more awesome! If you happen to make your own version of this, post some pictures in the comments. I'll send you a one year pro membership and a digital patch!



    • Tiny Home Contest

      Tiny Home Contest
    • Metalworking Contest

      Metalworking Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest

    26 Discussions

    No cats here. A 70+ pound Border Collie/Australian Shepard that would love to swallow the thing whole, though!

    I picked up a Pan Tilt WiFi cam for $5 at a yard sale so....... Something I'll definitely have to try when I get a minute or two :)

    Thanks for sharing.

    3 replies

    What's a Shepard? A cross between a sheep and a leopard maybe?

    Google "Australian Shepherd". I misspelled it the first time, sorry. They are a herding and hunting dog. Mine is a Border Collie mix. He just caught a small cottontail rabbit a few days ago. When my wife and son tried to get him to leave it alone he swallowed the darn thing whole! So you can see my concern in leaving him alone in the house with a rolling web cam :).

    Instead of the motor/joystick combo, you could use diodes and relays. It would save a lot of battery power. Each set of motor wires can control two relays using diodes to direct forward/reverse to make one or the other relay to activate. Then open the joystick and connect each switch pair to one or the other relay. It should be as simple as that.

    I love this instructable! Great job!

    2 replies

    Cool idea! I wish I'd had more time on this project to play with other options, but I was getting pressure to post it. Glad you enjoyed my write-up!

    Glad you liked it! Keep instructabling! (I think I made a new word) LOL

    Very ambitious project. Lots of possibilities to build upon. Just thinking... could you utilize or rig the tilt and pan motors to steer and control the direction of the camera platform? One motor to steer, the other to control a potentiometer which thru a microprocessor to send PWM forward and reverse voltage to the platform's drive motor? Ultrasonic collision avoidance?

    Some folks much more clever than I could really make quite a rover.

    I don't have the knowledge to do any of this but it is thought provoking. Thanks for posting and also thanks to you benefactor for furnishing some of the equipment to make it possible.

    1 reply

    Its a great project.
    For those who are will to try this with a lesser budget ,here is what you can do.
    All you need is a mobile which has access to wifi.(if you have a spare one at home then great)
    Just download the app Camera stream. And you will get an link on your mobile when you open the app.
    Just paste that link on your home pc which has access to that same wifi,and you can see everything live on your pc.
    So its basically 0$ if you have a spare mobile.
    Obviously it has its own limitations as night vision and other stuffs, if you connect some dome led's in front of you rc robot, this can be sorted as well.

    Cheers !!

    By line of sight, what's the farthest distance you've gotten from your router using this?

    2 replies

    Also, one more question: once setup with the router online, can you then interact using the router offline? I went to website but, ...well, I hoped you could translate.
    I'd like to be able to use the system offline via wi-fi alone, if that's possible.
    Great project, very inspiring; thanks!

    Great questions! My router is centrally located in my house, and I've had no problems anywhere in the house, probably the furthest distance is around thirty feet. I don't believe you'd be able to use this without an internet connection, I believe the login and commands are routed through the manufacturer's website.

    Hope that help!

    That's a great idea using the pan/tilt from the cam adapted to the controller. I'm assuming that pan is forward/backward and tilt is turn left/right (or vice versa). Can the camera pan/tilt at the same time so you can link multiple actions together like forward and to the left? It'd be great to see the ESCAM interface and the car in action :)

    4 replies

    Yep, you're exactly right! The control lag makes it pretty hard to do more than one operation at a time though, I'm usually more worried about telling it to stop before it smashes into something.
    I was originally going to include a video with this, but because the camera didn't save properly I ended up with about 10 seconds of me recording it from the outside. I'm thinking I'm going to redo everything and make a new instructable, using all the ideas people have given me and that dinosaur I mentioned in the last step. I'll definitely include video of the interface then!

    Could a higher discharge current battery help combat the lag issues? Good luck

    I did something similar based off another instructable, but with a Raspberry Pi and an Android phone. If you want to mess around with relays and a web server, check it out! http://jefflawler.net/blog/?p=65

    That's really cool! A lot more complex than my little project, but I think the end result must be a lot better.

    Just a thought regarding you final thoughts and a carrying dock.. They have wireless charges for smartphones and whatever that you just put on the pad... You could potentially do the same thing just make a parking pad and have the battery pack on the bottom. Also if you'd have a low battery warning/ indicator as you're driving, you could just drive it over to its packing pad to recharge.