4 Useful Ways to Use the Web Cam Beyond Video Chat

4 Useful Ways to Use the Web Cam Beyond Video Chat

Jeff Heaton
Mar 15, 2012

My web cam reminds me of HAL: it sits there, staring at me all day from a tiny hole above my screen. I'm determined to show it who's boss and get some more use out of it. Depending on what type you have and your willingness to modify there's all kinds of ways to use these little buggers.

1. Control Your Tunes
If you've got a Mac, Spotify and/or iTunes, and the desire to be Tom Cruise in Minority Report you can use Flutter to control your music through your webcam. You just put your palm up like you're going to high-five your Mac and if you're within about six feet Flutter will pause or play your music. It's handy if you're picking up the phone or can't get at the keyboard or mouse for some reason.

2. Watch Your House
There are myriad ways to use your camera to monitor your home or office, but one of the simplest we've seen is this one using Dorgem and a PC. It makes your webcam into a motion detecting, security scanning machine. It'll also work with multiple webcams if you're the paranoid, all-over-the-house type.

3. Scan Notes
If you've got Evernote you can use your webcam to capture notes which Evernote will scan using OCR and make searchable. We find this helps a lot when we don't have our smartphone handy or don't want to mess with the scanner. Or maybe you just really want to solve that pesky Sudoku problem and can't wait for tomorrow's paper.

4. Microscope/Telescope
With a little ingenuity you can usually remove the eyepiece from a telescope or microscope and plug your webcam up to it. Obviously this wont work quite as well with built-in models, but most any free standing one will do the trick. It's not as nice as more dedicated astrophotography devices but it's certainly cheaper.

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(Image: Flickr user Shermeee under creative commons.)

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