Creepy Eye-Shaped Webcam Will Make Video Calls Uncomfortable

The Eyecam blinks, looks around, and observes like a regular human eye.
Fabienne Lang

There are loads of weird and wonderful, and mostly useless, live streams viewed from webcams, but what about the actual webcams?

You might not think much of a typical webcam or the little round camera at the top of your computer, but they surround us, and lately, our lives largely revolve around them. 

So to keep things interesting, a team led by Marc Teyssier at the Human Computer Interaction Lab at Saarland University in Germany built and developed a creepy webcam prototype to resemble a human eye: the Eyecam.

Aside from playing with how future sensing devices might look like, the point of the work is to spark a discussion around the topic of sensing devices.

How much are you being watched? Are you being listened to? You know that strange sensation after you've talked about a random piece of equipment, and the next thing you know, your Facebook page is suggesting websites that sell that precise thing. Eery stuff. As the team points out, its project highlights the issues around privacy that these sensing devices bring up. 

The Eyecam

The Eyecam is shaped like a regular human eye: it blinks, it looks around, it observes.

It's an anthropomorphic webcam that mimics a human eye that was built to challenge the relationships we have with sensing devices around us. 

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Yes, this project could spark other creators to develop better future webcams that interact with us as we use them, but as the researchers pointed out, this wasn't their main goal. The point, as we mentioned earlier, is to open a debate around the topic of these devices. 

To enhance the discussion, the team has made its Eyecam available for anyone to build as Open-Source on GitHub. You can create your very own eye webcam and see for yourself just how uncomfortable it may make you feel, or perhaps you'll be pleasantly surprised.

The team will be sharing its Eyecam project at the upcoming online virtual conference, CHI 2021.

And who knows, maybe someday the Eyecam will join the ranks of many fascinating gadgets you can buy to upgrade your computer systems. For the time being, it makes for an interesting topic of conversation, that's for sure.

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