Paparazzi bird feeder
I keep a bird feeder outside a window at home, but I can never be sure who visits it: when the birds are awake, I’m at work (or asleep). The paparazzi bird feeder solves this problem by taking pictures of my avian visitors and posting them to Flickr and Twitter.
We quickly built a working prototype that detected the birds using a passive IR sensor and a sonic ranger:
It took pictures like this one, showing a family of house finches:
You’ll notice that this early prototype was made of cardboard, so it could only be deployed when the weather was good. The detection strategy was not very reliable, either: almost one picture in four were false positives.
The current prototype addresses these shortcomings. The passive IR sensor and sonic ranger were replaced with a modulated-IR tripwire, and the electronics was moved into a weatherproof box.