Friday, June 14, 2013

I Bet You Didn’t Know Your Webcam Could Do This! 5 Tips To Help You Use Its Full Potential

MakeUseOf Newsletter

how to use your webcamAre you the kind of person that covers their webcam with a sticker, so nobody can spy on them?
Almost every device now is equipped with at least one camera. They make virtual meetings with family and friends a little more personal. Rather than staring at a static profile image and hearing a distant voice, you can visually interact with the other person, read facial expressions, and thus better understand how the human on the other end feels. This subtle information adds a lot of depth to conversations.
But webcams can do a lot more than enhance virtual conversations. Few of us use their full potential for fun, convenience, and safety.

Play Interactive Games

The idea of tracking movements with a camera for interactive games was first realized by Sony, when they introduced the EyeToy for the PlayStation 2. Later, Microsoft released Kinect for Xbox. Meanwhile, interactive games had reached regular webcams.
WebCam Mania is one of those interactive webcam games. It comes with various game packs and is available for all major versions of Windows.
Another program that isn’t a game, but a tool to let you control any of your games with your webcam, is CamSpace. While it used to run from any browser, it now requires a desktop client named Cody, which is only available for Windows. CamSpace isn’t free anymore, but comes with a $8.95 price tag.
While there isn’t a huge selection of games and tools that employ the webcam, it’s good to know that you don’t necessarily need a gaming console to have some truly interactive gaming fun.

Control Software

Flutter took the idea of interacting with the webcam to a whole different level. The tool lets youcontrol software with hand gestures. It’s available for Mac and Windows and presently supports Spotify, iTunes, QuickTime, Windows Media Player, Winamp, VLC, PowerPoint, and Keynote. Additionally, you can control the player functions of YouTube, Pandora, Grooveshark, and Netflix in Chrome.
how to use your webcam

Create Animated GIFs & Avatars

Looking for an original avatar? Turn webcam snapshots into animated GIFs, for example withPsykoGif. Like most of these tools, it runs from your browser and uses Flash. It has an intuitive interface, is limited to six frames, and you can delete and re-take frames as often as you like.
A similar tool to record an avatar using your webcam is WebCam Avatar. You can take a series of as many frames as you like. They are combined into one animated GIF, which you can edit as you preview it. You can delete, add, and move frames, change the frame intervals, photo dimensions, and add effects.
Both tools are free, don’t require registration, and offer a direct download of your animated GIF.
how to use your web camera    

Log Into Your Computer With Face Recognition

With KeyLemon you won’t ever have to type in your Windows password again. Instead, just hold your face in front of the camera to log into your account. Should you have such a bad day that not even KeyLemon will recognize your face, you can always fall resort to your password.
The software supports multiple user accounts, is available for Windows XP through Windows 8, Mac 10.6 to 10.8, and comes in a Basic (free), Bronze, and Gold version with varying features. Apart from logging in with face recognition, the free version also includes the LemonDay plugin that lets you track your face evolution over time.
how to use your web camera
We recently mentioned KeyLemon in an article on fun tools to get more out of your webcam.

Use Your Webcam For Surveillance

Maybe the most obvious thing you can do with a webcam is use it for surveillance or generally watching things remotely. We have covered this subject extensively on MakeUseOf. James wrote a very detailed piece on how to use your webcam for home surveillance, including a list of tools for different platforms and needs.
how to use your web camera
While James didn’t approve of it, Matt thought iSpy was a great surveillance tool, suitable even in a professional environment. It records video and audio, supports motion detection, and can upload videos to YouTube.
web camera uses
Angela showed you how to build your own baby monitor using Skype and a spare webcam with computer, ideally an old laptop.
how to use your webcam

Bonus Tip: Use Your Smartphone Camera As A Webcam

In case you do not have a webcam on your computer but own a smartphone with a camera, try to turn the phone’s camera into an external webcam for your PC. You can use any Android device as PC webcam with a tool called SmartCam. Likewise, you can turn your iPhone into a webcam for your computer.


Your webcam can do a lot more than visually transport your emotions in a video chat. It’s a game engine, toy, and security device, all in one. Are you using your webcam to its full potential? What other uses have you found for it?

Tina Sieber

Tina is a freelance writer, editor, natural scientist, and cosmopolitan with a strong interest in sustainability. She has been writing for MakeUseOf since late 2007 and also is the Editor for MakeUseOf Answers.