I recently came upon an article in computoredge magazine by Dawn Clement about the usefulness of webcams; it also has a lot of interesting links. The only thing that I was missing in the article was the “how to”. I was wondering how do you go about installing the webcam when I came across another article by Jack Dunning explaining just that. So I am including the first article and a link to the second just in case you are wondering about webcams yourself.
Webcams: More Useful than You Think
“From video calls to visiting outer space, have fun with Webcams.”
by Dawn Clement
A Webcam is a video-capture device connected to a computer. Originally, small cameras that attached to a computer via a cable, they have become increasingly popular. These little cameras are so ubiquitous that most modern laptops come with built-in Webcams. You may already have a Webcam and not know it! Why would you want a Webcam, you might ask? Well, they’re actually kind of fun. You can make video calls to faraway friends, play games in a whole new way, visit places you would never otherwise get to see, and create art.
There is a certain cool factor to using Webcams for video telephony. In the late 19th century, Alexander Graham Bell predicted that “the day would come when the man at the telephone would be able to see the distant person to whom he was speaking.” That prediction came true less than 100 years later. The first video telephones hit the market in the 1960s, and there are still video telephones available today. They are, however, a niche market due to their high cost. Webcams offer an inexpensive (nearly free) alternative to traditional video telephones.
Any computer with Internet access and a Webcam can be used to make video calls. All you need to do is install some software. Most messenger programs (i.e., Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Skype, etc.) have built in support for video calling. Video calls (actually chat sessions) are easy and fun, but there are other things you can do with your Webcam.
Use your Webcam to catalog your books, CDs and DVDs. Between my husband, myself, and our three kids, we have thousands of books, hundreds of CDs, and bookshelves full of DVDs. It gets hard to keep track of everything, and we occasionally purchase an item only to realize after the fact that it’s a duplicate. There is an easy way for us (and you) to organize everything in a convenient manner. Webcams can be used to scan barcodes and create databases of books (or CDs or DVDs), which can then be used to make informed purchases. Of course, you will also need some software. Check out MediaMan and Delicious Monster.
Did you know that you can use your Webcam to play motion-controlled games online? Motion-controlled games are not new (think Wii), but the idea of using a Webcam as the control mechanism is. Who knew that simple flash games could be transformed into technological wonders? You can find free games at My Live Cam and Motion Games.
Create art with your Webcam. Performance artists the world over have adopted the Webcam as another medium to play with. For example, Noah Kalina has been taking a picture of himself with his Webcam every day since 2000. You can view all of the pictures as a slide show and see how he’s changed over the years by checking out his Web site. James Kuhn is a face painter who filmed his creations in action and posted them online. Japanese rock band Sour has created an incredible music video from Webcam clips of their fans enjoying their music. It’s definitely worth checking out. These artists’ work is truly inspiring! You can create your own art pieces with special-effects software from sites such as waves.tv and cameroid.com, or even participate in a group project at www.flickaday.com.
You can also use your Webcam for video surveillance. All you need is your computer, your Webcam and some software, such as DeskShare or Softpedia. You never know when this will come in handy. Last year in New York, when Kait Duplaga’s laptop was stolen, she used the built-in Webcam to take a picture of the thief, who was subsequently apprehended.
If you’re camera shy or don’t have a Webcam of your own, you can always watch somebody else’s. There are literally millions of Webcams out there, and some of them are actually pointed at something interesting. See active volcanoes. Watch penguins play at the Monterey Bay Aquarium or catch cute cheetahs cavorting at the National Zoo.
Visit outer space from the comfort of your own home. There are several good Webcams in space—there’s more than one on the International Space Station, there’s one on the Tate Satellite (with some great shots of the Earth) and the European Space Agency even has one on Mars.
More than likely, you’ll find certain Webcam feeds online that you want to watch regularly. To make it easy on yourself, why not consider installing a Webcam aggregator to organize your favorite feeds? Free software is available online at sites such as Ksourcerer.