The challenge: take a cheap generic webcam and make something interesting with it.
After a few strange experiments pulling the lens off and painting directly on the sensor, which looked like this:
I decided to try something a little less esoteric, and create the cheapest 3D camera I could.
I began by purchasing another super-cheap webcam, stripping the housing from both cameras, and mounting them in a sheet of cardboard – in keeping with the shoestring aesthetic, I harvested the cardboard from an empty box.
I then plugged both into my computer.
Unfortunately, getting the computer to recognize them as separate entities was a technical nightmare, but I learned a lot about hardware in the process. Eventually I had to take ownership of my registry key (scary!) and change the IDs of the cameras in the system.
That accomplished, I wrote a sketch in Processing that streamed both cameras live and took and saved a picture when the user pressed a key. After a short period of tweaking the positions and angles of the cameras and playing with the specifics of each camera feed to match color, brightness and zoom level (the two webcams, in spite of having identical names and outward appearances, took wildly different pictures), I was able to shoot a number of fully functional (if not terribly beautiful) 3D photos, all for a cost of around 16.00 (including the original camera).