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How a new dad keeps tab on his newborn with DIY laser and Wiimote hack

Even before blogger and hacker who simply goes by Gjoci became a dad, he spent weeks attempting to build a baby breathing monitor for the upcoming arrival of his daughter. But unlike your average baby breathing monitor, Gjoci crafted the device out of a Wiimote sensor and 1 milliwatt lasers to help detect whether his newborn was still peacefully sleeping.

Gjoci was able to accomplish this by disassembling a Wiimote and using the camera sensor to recognize three spots of lights. He then positions three 1 milliwatt lasers to watch over his newborn as she sleeps, allowing the device to detect the small movements of light as the baby breathes. These movements account for anywhere between just two to four pixels, making it perfect for the Wiimote’s extracted camera sensor to detect such detailed changes. There are also lights on the actual sensor computerboard that flashes in a pulse-like pattern, similar to what you’d see when measuring sound noise.

Every few milliseconds, the camera would check if the spots of lights are still gently shifting. If the breathing becomes irregular according to abnormal light patterns, Gjoci would be alerted with a buzzer sound. So far, the device has only given Gjoci a “very low number of false alarms,” and no hardware crashes or malfunctions. Still, you gotta wonder if the baby is curious as to why there are beams of light hovering over her body each time she awakes.

Gjoci claims since newborns don’t move very much, it seems fairly safe to use lasers on the child without running the risk of flashing into her eyes. This, of course, is still somewhat debatable in the Hack A Day comments section. Some readers suggest using infrared LED lights with reflective tape on the baby’s clothes to shine lights back to the camera sensor to reduce the safety risk from little to zero. Others question the possibility of a thermal detection.

Whatever the adaptations, the possibility of hacking a Wiimote into something much more useful outside of gaming is a remarkable and creative idea. If you want to read more on how Gjoci created the device, follow him on his blog. In meantime, here are a few videos of the sensor’s demonstration.

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