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Webcams aren’t just for the Skyping Grandma: they are your computers’ eye on the world.

There’s a surprising amount you can do with that webcam, so let’s take a look at some uses you might not have thought of.

Control Your Media and Games

There may be all manner of fancy gesture and motion controllers like the Razer Hydra Razer Hydra Review and Giveaway Razer Hydra Review and Giveaway Say the words "motion controller" to any serious gamer, and they'll screw their face up and scream gimmick. The WiiMote, Playstation Move, Xbox Kinect - none of these have made any real difference outside of... Read More  for VR gaming – but for basic pause, play and skip controls, your webcam with more than suffice. Flutter Flutter Lets You Control Your Media Using Your Webcam Flutter Lets You Control Your Media Using Your Webcam We're always looking for new ways to control our electronics. Another trend—gestures and movement—can be found by looking at game consoles. Most notably, the Kinect of Microsoft's XBox. Lacking one of those fancy Kinect cameras,... Read More (now owned by Google) interfaces with a number of popular media apps like VLC and iTunes and is a free download for Mac or Windows. Since there’s only a few controls, gesture recognition is quick and accurate.

flutter

CamSpace Control Any Game With Your Webcam Using CamSpace Control Any Game With Your Webcam Using CamSpace Read More (Windows only) uses physical objects like a cardboard steering wheel to emulate game controls, but you’ll need to make sure they’re not skintone coloured or the same your clothing. Works best with racing games and those with limited controls.

Make Stop Motion Movies

An incredible creative project for kids, stop-motion videos involve making minor adjustments to a scene then taking an image and repeating the process hundreds or thousands of times over. Popularised by animations such as Wallace and Grommit, stop-motion is easy using your webcam and special software. If your plasticine modelling skills aren’t that great, use LEGO to create your movie – you’ll need lots of heads and a sharpie if you want real emotion though.

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iStopMotion is the most professional choice (Mac only), and comes with a huge list of features that justify the $50 price tag, such as onion skinning (where the current frame is overlaid on the last, to show exactly what changed). On the free side, check out MonkeyJam for Windows.

istopmotion

Of course, you needn’t limit yourself to a webcam – if you have an iPhone, iPad or Android – there’s a number of mobile stop-motion tools Create Stop Motion Animations With These 5 Fun Apps [iPhone & Android] Create Stop Motion Animations With These 5 Fun Apps [iPhone & Android] In terms of awesome creative things you can do with a lot of free time, stop motion animations rank right up there with the best. For kids and adults alike, being able to take inanimate... Read More available to you too.

Take Time-Lapse Sequences

For observing things like plant growth or weather patterns, time-lapse photography involves taking a single photo at set intervals – anywhere from every five minutes to once a day for a really long term project.

Gawker (Mac) is a simple time-lapse app that can be run on multiple machines at once for multi-cam composite time-lapses. SkyStudioPro (Windows) is a freeware app that will handle both motion detection and time-lapse sequence.

If you have a USB webcam rather than one built into your machine, this is even easier on the Raspberry Pi How To Capture Time-Lapse Photography With Your Raspberry Pi and DSLR or USB Webcam How To Capture Time-Lapse Photography With Your Raspberry Pi and DSLR or USB Webcam Time-lapse photography can really give you a sense of how the world works on a macroscopic level, beyond anything conceivable to the normal human experience of time. Read More , and won’t require you to leave your computer on all the time.

Set Up Home Surveillance

There’s a variety of home surveillance software packages Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools I live in England, the country with the highest number of CCTVs than anywhere else in the world - about 1 camera to every 30 people, it’s estimated. Obviously, that’s not enough (yes, that is... Read More  I’ve covered before which you can use to keep an eye on your home and record footage from a webcam, and yet again, this is one area in which the Raspberry Pi shines Build a Motion Capture Security System Using a Raspberry Pi Build a Motion Capture Security System Using a Raspberry Pi Of the many projects that you can build with the Raspberry Pi, one of the most interesting and permanently useful is the motion capture security system. Read More .

Take Silly Photos

PhotoBooth comes free with all Macs and has a variety of silly effects you can apply instantly, as well as a dead simple interface. Cameroid is an online service that does the same, with preset effects and scenes like this one:

cameroid
How the hundred dollar bill should have been made.

Set Up A Photo Booth For A Party

Apparently, putting a photo booth at events is what all the young ‘uns are doing nowadays, so they can capture the moment when they’re all dolled up. You can get as complex as you like, and even hook up a printer for instant hard copies. SparkBooth (for Windows and Mac) is a tad pricey at $55 for a personal licence (there’s a 30-day watermarked trial), but is tailored specifically for parties and events – it even hooks into your printer and allow users to email the pictures or share them straight to Facebook and Twitter.

Start a Library (Mac)

Wait, what? What does a library have to do with a webcam? Well, imagine the tedium of cataloguing an entire library of books and DVDs by having to type in the title and all the other minutiae. Now stop imagining it, because you don’t have to. Delicious Library ($24.99) lets you catalogue pretty much anything, and if it has a barcode then the information is automatically pulled from Amazon. Just hold the product up to your webcam, and let the app do its magic. Read about my adventures cataloguing all the things with Delicious Library 3 Collect ALL The Things With Delicious Library 3 for Mac OS X Collect ALL The Things With Delicious Library 3 for Mac OS X There's a pretty good chance that you have things. Many kinds of things in fact, from gadgets to toys, books to power tools and piles of DVDs. What if there was a way to organize... Read More here.

Delicious_Library.jpg

Play Motion Games

The epitome of casual gaming, these primitive motion-controlled games might keep you amused for at most 14 seconds, but don’t expect near as advanced as these Microsoft Kinect hacks 5 Microsoft Xbox Kinect Hacks That'll Blow Your Mind 5 Microsoft Xbox Kinect Hacks That'll Blow Your Mind Read More . CBBC has quite a few webcam games for children; or try ExtendedReality for a list of downloadable and online webcam games.

Make Animated GIFs

GifPal works in your browser to create animated GIFs from a series of photos. It’s incredibly simple to use, and includes effects. Unlike some online GIF tools, no login is required, but it does need Flash and the output isn’t exactly high resolution.

gifpal-20140607085249

FaceToGIF is a modern implementation using HTML5, and works more like a video recorder than a series of snapshots. There are no fancy filters, but you do get a choice of frame sizes and the final output is far higher quality. Filesizes can be quite large, but you always optimize them. Again, no login required nor Flash.

your-giffed-face

Login Or Unlock Your Computer

Passwords are so passé: join the CSI generation with automatic facial recognition login. KeyLemon ($40) for Windows and Mac is the leading solution which includes both login and password manager features, but I found their online demo was defeated by just tilting my head slightly. Rohos Face Logon is freeware but more limited in features. The truth is that facial recognition is extremely difficult – Windows 8 was rumoured to come with facial recognition after a certain API call was found, but this never came to fruition – presumably because it just didn’t work that well.

Most webcam toys are gimmicks that won’t keep you amused for long, but I do think there’s great educational value in creating a time-lapse sequence or stimulating the creative juices with things like stop motion. Check out these other creative weekend projects for Mac 4 Creative Projects To Do On Your Mac [OSX] 4 Creative Projects To Do On Your Mac [OSX] With summer still way off and spring only just poking its head out, there's still time to get some creative juices flowing while stuck in front of your computer. If you still haven't done anything... Read More too while you’re at it. When not in use, you might want to keep that webcam taped up, given how easy it is for anyone to hack into it How Easy Is It For Someone To Hack Your Webcam? How Easy Is It For Someone To Hack Your Webcam? Read More .

Do you have any other favourite webcam tools?

  1. randomdude
    July 18, 2014 at 6:20 am

    hey adam, if you like the content/titles then just LEAVE and you wont have to deal with it.

    or continue on trooling as you were :)

  2. Stacy
    July 16, 2014 at 2:06 am

    I agree with Paul.. I found a thing or two worth my time here.

  3. Adam
    June 24, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    I've thought of nearly all of those. Please stop using titles like this.

    • Paul
      June 26, 2014 at 5:49 am

      I only thought of one or two and found some things very useful - so please keep up the good work. As for the title, that's fine too - for the sake of 2 minutes research over a cup of coffee.

  4. Petey P
    June 24, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I do surveillance for our IT office and cabinets...It is timed for after hours recording. Caught a few people trying for 5 finger discounts...

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