Low-cost Raspberry Pi Zero endoscope camera

Researchers at the University of Cape Town set about developing an affordable wireless endoscope camera to rival expensive, less agile options.

Endoscopic cameras are used to look at organs inside your body. A long, thin, flexible tube with a light at the end is fed down your throat (for example), and an inside view of all your organs is transmitted to a screen for medical review.

Problem is, these things are expensive to build. Also, the operator is tethered by camera wires and power cables.

Low cost endoscope camera
The prototype featured in Lazarus & Ncube research paper

With this low-cost prototype, the camera is mounted at the end with LEDs instead of fibre-optic lights. The device is battery powered, and can perform for two hours without needing a charge. Traditional endoscopes require external camera cables and a hefty monitor, so this wireless option saves space and provides much more freedom. Weighing in at just 184g, it’s also much more portable.

The prototype incorporates a 1280 × 720 pixel high-definition tube camera, and transmits video to a standard laptop for display. Perhaps this idea could be developed to support an even more agile display, such as a phone or a touchscreen tablet.

Thousands of dollars cheaper

This Raspberry Pi-powered wireless option also saves thousands of dollars. It was built for just $230, whereas contemporary wired options cost around $28,000.

Urologists at the University of Cape Town created the prototype. J. M. Lazarus & M. Ncube hope their design will be more accessible to medical settings that have less money available. You can read their research paper for an in-depth look at the whole process.

Traditional endescope camera cross section
A traditional endoscope. Image from Lazarus & Ncube’s original paper

The researchers focused on open-source resources to keep the cost low; we’ll learn more about the RaspAP software they used below. Affordability also led them to Raspberry Pi Zero W which, at just $10, is able to handle high-definition video.

What is RaspAP?

Billz, who shared the project on reddit, is one of the developers of RaspAP.

RaspAP is a wireless setup and management system that lets you get a wireless access point up and running quickly on Raspberry Pi. Here, the Raspberry Pi is receiving images sent from the camera and transmitting them to a display device.

An example of a Rasp A P dashboard
An example of a RaspAP dashboard

There is also Quick installer available for RaspAP. It creates a default configuration that “just works” on all Raspberry Pis with onboard wireless.

We wonder what other medical equipment could be greatly improved by developing an affordable wireless version?

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Tom W avatar

What’s stopping existing medical device companies from developing / selling similar things?

Robert avatar

More than likely a combination of regulatory certifications cost, high profit requirements to satisfy Wall Street, and closed source mentality.
At least in the US, they have to build in high margins for the inevitable lawsuits on everything.

Ron avatar

you can’t patent rasberry pi, and you’d have to pay them royalties if you used their product

Bernhard avatar

Interesting solution. Opens a new field for photography :-)

Best regards

Anders avatar

It’s a fun thing to build but not at all unusual, USB endoscope cameras on long flexi rods are on Amazon for a few pounds. I have one which has come in very handy for jobs around the house, fixing appliances and working on cars.

Sentekin Can avatar

Can you describe, at least one of those applications?

Zintoki avatar

There are really cheap endoscopes on ebay/aliexpress that can be pluged to phones via usb and work anywhere.

Sentekin Can avatar

Great application, possibly a great tool for hospitals in underdeveloped countries. As raspberry pi users, players we are used to the open software and apps. I was hoping it could be more open information here to any RPi enthusiast could utilize.

Don avatar

Yeah, sure …come on over! We’ll have a couple of beers and …you can sit on my Raspberry Pi.

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