Converting a Lifecam VX-5000 to see IR

By on 2/22/2009

So I've recently become interested in building a multitouch table such as the one seen here.  All of the techniques for building them involve having a webcam that can see infrared, so I figured that was a first step.

The guys over at NUI Group have a great writeup and list of webcams that are easily modifiable for this purpose:

Despite that list, I ended up getting a Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000.  The first thing I did to test was put together the simple test rig described here (MT Mini).  Very ingenious to simply invert the webcam image so it looks like it's just IR light.  That worked really well.

So I set about modifying the camera.  Since I couldn't really find anything online about modifying this model, I decided to post the steps in case it helps anyone else.  Sadly, I neglected to take pictures during the process, so you'll have to rely on my vivid descriptions :-P

  1. Remove the silver ring on the front of the camera.  It's stuck on using a small amount of adhesive so you just kind of have to pry it off.
  2. Unscrew the two screws keeping the surrounding lens cover and remove it.
  3. Unscrew the 3 screws and remove the entire front face.  The live messenger button on top will also fall off once you remove it.
  4. Unscrew the lens, it had a small amount of some sort of adhesive, which I just had to scratch off with a knife.
  5. Remove the screws from the circuit board and remove it from the bottom casing.
  6. Unscrew the additional lens housing from the bottom of the board.  This is what's covering the IR filter.
  7. Once you remove that, you'll have to remove the IR filter (it looks like it reflects redish light).  It was glued on so I ended up having to kind of crack the ir filter to remove it piece by piece.
  8. Install the IR-Pass filter ... of course, this is where everyone seems to hack it, since lots of guides online tend to suggest using exposed film negative.  I cut out two pieces and put them in place of the IR filter.
  9. With that done, rebuild everything you've just taken apart until the camera is put back together.

I used the TBeta from NUI Group for testing:

And it worked pretty well ... I was able to get a remote control and use it to track the IR LED that lights up when you press a button.  The next step will be to start building the FTIR surface.  Stay tuned :-P

See more in the archives