Anthropomorphic webcam looks – and moves – like a human eye
It's easy for us to forget that our computers are equipped with "electronic eyes," potentially watching us at all times. Scientists are now exploring the dynamics of the relationship, with a creepy – but fully functional – human-eye-like webcam.
Known as the Eyecam, the one-off device was designed by a team at Germany's Saarland University, led by postdoctoral researcher Marc Teyssier. It's part of the larger EU-funded InteractiveSkin project, which is aimed at the development of body-worn electronic interfaces.
The Eyecam consists of a 3D-printed polymer body, a pigmented silicone skin, an eyebrow made of human hair implants, an artificial eyeball, and of course the electronic components. Amongst the latter is a Raspberry Pi Zero microcomputer, a tiny 720p/60fps video camera contained within the eyeball, and six servo motors. Those motors pan the eye back and forth as the camera visually tracks the user, plus they periodically blink the eyelids and raise the eyebrow.
The whole thing plugs into the host computer's USB port, which simply recognizes the device as a webcam.
Conceivably, peripherals like the Eyecam could one day boost human/computer interactivity by expressing emotions, or by mirroring the user's own state of being. If the device detected that the user was looking tired, for instance, it could likewise make the eye look droopy and fatigued. For the most part, though, it is not intended to represent a future commercial product.
"The goal of our project is not to develop a 'better' design for cameras, but to spark a discussion," says Teyssier. "We want to draw attention to the fact that we are surrounded by sensing devices every day. That raises the question of how that affects us."
A paper on the project, which will be presented next month via the online ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, can already be accessed online. Additionally, tinkerers interested in building their own Eyecam can download the open-source plans.
You can see the Eyecam in rather disturbing action, in the video below.