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Mars Rover – Infrared Detection

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The Mars Rover needs to detect infrared in its camera so that visitors can identify infrared-emitting rocks that are hidden in various spots in the Mars Exhibit. We have completed a series of experiments to confirm that this part of the Rover is working properly. Pics and explanation below.

The Mars exhibit has many Mars rocks. A few of the rocks are hollow inside and have an infrared lamp inside so the rock emits infrared energy. The visitor's objective is to drive the Rover around the Mars exhibit and find the hidden, infrared-emitting rocks.

The Mars exhibit has many Mars rocks. A few of the rocks are hollow and have an infrared lamp inside so the rock emits infrared energy. The visitor’s objective is to drive the Rover around the Mars exhibit and find the hidden infrared-emitting rocks. (On the real Mars, infrared-emitting rocks indicate that the rocks may have been formed in liquid water, and therefore may be a clue to past life on Mars)

The Mars Rover is equipped with a 640x480 wifi camera that looks straight ahead from its front panel.

The Mars Rover is equipped with the inner core of a high-quality 640×480 WiFi camera (the Sharx Security SCNC2700). The video camera looks straight ahead from its front panel. By sending the camera a special web-post (thank you to the folks at Sharx for their special help on this), we can programmatically turn the camera’s IR cut-filter on and off, thereby switching the camera between “Normal Camera” mode and “Infrared Camera” mode.

Mars Rover - Infrared Lamp

We didn’t have a “Mars Rock” to work with in our workshop, so for this experiment, we placed an infrared lamp inside a black box.

The infrared lamp is on.

We turned the infrared lamp on.

We then covered the infrared lamp with six layers of black muslin cloth. To the naked eye, it looks simply black. This is serving the purpose of our "Mars Rock" for this experiment.

We then covered the box with six layers of black muslin cloth. To the naked eye and when viewing it through the video camera in normal viewing mode it looks simply black. This is serving the purpose of our “Mars Rock” for this experiment. This is a picture of what we see on screen in the camera’s video stream. It looks like normal black cloth.

We then turn on the "Infrared Camera". Just as we hoped and theorized, the black box now appears as bright white in the camera. This will allow visitors to the exhibit to easily differentiate the infrared-emitting rocks from the normal rocks in the exhibit.

We then turn on the “Infrared Camera” mode. Just as we hoped and theorized, the black box now appears as bright white in the camera. So, when visitors to the exhibit switch the Rover’s camera into “Infrared Camera” mode they will be able to easily  differentiate the infrared-emitting rocks from the normal rocks.

Special thanks to the folks at Sharx Security for not freaking out when I told them I was tearing one of their cameras apart piece by piece, integrating it into our robot, and sending it to “Mars.” They were very helpful in providing the technical information we needed to get the camera to do what we needed it to do. All indications are that it’s going to work very well for us.

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