Fun with a webcam
When I was a child, I wished I had a video camera to play with. Now
that I finally own a webam, I decided to do fun things with it.
I dont use my webcam to do videoconference... And I would really
appreciate if someone could explain why we call them Web
What's the link between the web and an USB camera?
If you have done cool projects using your webcam too and would like me to link
to your page or add an entry on this page, please
. If you saw a related
page or know a page about any cool webcam project, please
. I'll add
them to the Other people's projects
Before I got my digital camera, I used my webcam a lot to take pictures.
The picture quality is of course not as good as with a decent digital
camera, but it's still acceptable for a web site.
Here are some pictures I took of my lab in november 2003:
It's also possible (at least with this model) to take
close pictures of objects:
In low light conditions, some noise appears in the pictures. Unlike
the light coming from the objects we are trying to photography,
the noise is random. Being random, it tends to cancel itself when
we do an average of many pictures (several seconds).
Another problem that occurs in low light is that the contrast is very
low. We can "stretch" the contrast so that the less bright pixel
becomes black (0) and the brightest pixel is full white (255). We do
the same for all three color channels (Red, Green and Blue).
I wrote a tool to experiment with those principles. Here is a
From left to right 1) The picture from the webcam as-is. 2) The same
picture with contrast stretched. 3) Average of several images. What
you are seeing is an IBM paper package.
The software I wrote evolved into a fun tool to play with
video coming from a webcam. It now has many other kind of filters.
I called it SDLcam
I discovered that my webcam is able to see infra-reds. This means
that it's possible bright something using infra-reds in order
to take a picture in darkness (at least for our eyes).
The picture on the left, containing 27 infra-red leds, confirms
that the webcam is sensitive to infra-reds.
The central picture shows the Atari 1040STe computer I'm about
The picture on the right is the result. My
noise reduction system
was necessary to
obtain this result.
Here is another proof that the webcam sees infra-reds. My pupil
is quite dilated:
A visitor mailed me about an article where someone explains how
to remove the IR filter of the webcam to obtain a higher IR response.
I will try this soon!
Here is another site where this time a camera phone gets modified
Hacking a SE T610 camera for IR
A friend has sent me 2 pictures demonstrating the ability to view under ink using
an ir-modified webcam.
Picture taken with a normal webcam.
Picture taken with a webcam modified for infra-red only.
Sometimes I use my webcam as a security camera.
With the help of a tool called
, it is possible to automatically save
pictures containing motion. It's also possible to
connect to the built-in web server to see in real-time
what's going on in front of the camera.
, which saves pictures containing motion (In other words,
when a new picture is different enough from the previous one, it
is saved), I was able to take many pictures of the lightnings
during a storm: (Easy, start motion and wait :)
Wide angle lens
The lens used by my webcam is designed assuming that
the camera will be on top of a screen adn that it
should only see the face of the person sitting
in front of it. This means that it does not have
a very wide angle of vision. Because of that, to
photography large objects using my webcam I must be far
from the object.
In security applications, we often want to see a full
room. This is impossible with the default lens.
I found a way to increase the angle of vision of the
webcam using a door viewer. I simply installed the
door viewer in front of the webcam. I obtained a
wide angle of vision, but the image is small.
It's possible to install the webcam in front of a telescope's
eyepiece in order to take pictures.
Here are some pictures I took of the moon:
You may also look to windows in your neighborhood: (But this is not
Someone wrote me a about a website explaining how
to use lens for 35 mm cameras to build a webcam telescope.
To take pictures with a microscope, I removed the
lens from the webcam and the microscope's eyepiece. With
this setup, the picture coming from the microscope goes
directly to the camera's sensor.
I used hot glue to stick the webcam to the microscope since
it's easy to remove:
Here is a picture of microscopic crystals taken with this setup:
For more pictures, visit my
mysterious green crystals
step motor (stepper) controlled by a parallel port
I built a platform which can rorate an object step by
step, taking a picture of each step automatically.
Here is an animation built with this: (I has less frames
than the original and is smaller)
I also wrote a program that's able to "unroll" objects. The
stepper does a full revolution in 200 steps. At each step,
the program saves the central line of the picture received
from the webcam. Next, each of the saved lines are aligned
one after another, from left to right, forming an image.
First of all, we must align the webcam on the object's rotation
After 200 steps, the picture looks like this:
The image ratio is wrong. I would need a mecanism with
some gears to obtain more steps per turn. Meanwhile,
I can cheat by resizing the image:
It's fun to try to "unroll" non-circular objects: (in this
example, it's a pager)
Computer control with laser pointer
I wrote a simple program that uses a webcam to detect the presence and position
of the spot created by a laser pointer on a wall.
It is possible to define hotspots which can be activated using the pointer. When
a hotspot is activated, any command can be executed. My goal was to control a
music player, xmms, with this system.
For more information, visit
Software > laserspotcam
Other people's projects / links
In this section, I'll add links to other fun or innovative uses of webcams.
OvO is a commercial game (with free demo version) which you control with your webcam: