My Naturewatch is a collaborative design research project between the Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths University of London and the Design Products Programme at the Royal College of Art. It explores the design of DIY devices that support new ways to engage with nature and digital making.
What did you create?
The My Naturewatch Camera is an easy to make DIY wildlife camera that takes pictures when it ‘sees’ movement using computer vision – it can be set up outside to capture images of local birds and animals. The camera can be assembled by following an online recipe from the My Naturewatch website using off-the-shelf electronic components from hobbyist stores and cased in household materials such as food storage containers and recycled plastic bottles. The camera was featured on the BBC Springwatch television show in June 2018 to a live audience of about two million viewers in the UK, prompting tens of thousands of unique visitors to the project website. An estimated 2,000 people have made My Naturewatch Cameras to date, largely in the UK but internationally as well. Samples of the images they have captured and the set-ups they have used can be found on the website user forum as well as social media (@mynaturewatch or #mynaturewatch).
Why did you make it?
From the outset the camera was designed to be DIY product that anybody could make, even with no experience in digital making. Our research studio had been working with the BBC Natural History Unit and we could see that there was the opportunity to develop a wildlife camera that could be made at home, that would encourage people to engage in the wildlife in their own gardens. Although the My Naturewatch Camera was conceived to be simple and cheap to make, it offers many advantages over commercially available wildlife camera solutions, such as using computer vision to reliably detect movement of smaller wildlife. In addition, flexible connectivity with smartphones and tablets allows people to remotely setup and monitor the camera.
How did you make it?
The final design for our DIY wildlife camera is online recipe for constructing the device using off-the-shelf electronic components, household materials and software that we developed as an all-in-one package of operating system and application. It is completely open-sourced and users are encouraged to make as many adaptations to the design as they wish. The My Naturewatch Camera is designed to be implemented on the Raspberry Pi Zero W microprocessor, an inexpensive single-board computer. This platform facilitates a variety of camera options to accommodate a variety of different use options (eg. Infrared night mode, macro lens). The camera uses custom computer vision software to capture animal movement and allows users to control it via their own devices (eg. tablet, smartphone, laptop). The camera electronics are housed in a waterproof plastic food storage container with a hole drilled in to expose the camera lens, and to shield the lens from rain with the cut-off end of a plastic bottle. Full instructions for making this housing are part of the online recipe.
Your entry’s specification
Camera Components: Raspberry Pi Zero W Standard camera module for Raspberry Pi Zero USB power bank/battery 16GB - 32GB Micro SD card Micro USB cable Heatsink Waterproof Tupperware Container Plastic Bottle Top Sugru, hot glue or construction sealant Paper Camouflage Dimensions: 144h x 110w x d170 mm Weight: 300g