by David Hakala
We discussed Setting Up a Web Cam For Video Chats in a previous article. But there are other uses for Web cameras.
You can turn your Web cam into a motion-sensing surveillance system. It will start recording when anything moves in its field of view. This can be a handy security system or a way to get into “lifestreaming,” the bizarre practice of streaming video of everything you do to the entire Web. Yawcam is a free program that does motion-sensing recordings, and it can automatically upload video files to a Web site where the whole world can watch you drink coffee while you check email.
Tired of entering passwords every time Windows starts up? Log in with your face. Freeware KeyLemon software adds face recognition to your Web cam. It works by mapping a face, storing a couple of dozen bits of data concerning things like the distance between your eyes, the length of your nose relative to the rest of your face, etc. Then it looks for these patterns when you sit down to log on to the computer. If there’s a close enough match, you get logged in. It’s not perfectly reliable but it’s definitely cool!
Make time-lapse videos of parties. Set an interval and your Web cam will take a picture or short segment of video of whatever it’s pointed at every one, five, ten, or whatever minutes. Freeware Webcam Timershot for Windows or Gawker for Macs will do the trick.
Set up a birdfeeder Web cam. Just build a basic Cub Scout birdfeeder and attach a USB or Bluetooth Web cam to it. Run one of the free tools above to capture birds when they land and feed, or just shoot time-lapse video of the birdfeeder.
If you don’t have a Web cam you can turn your cell phone (equipped with camera) into one. A free Windows application called SmartCam works with Bluetooth and a phone running the Symbian 60 operating system.
David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dhakala