This is the webcam that literally watches you while you sit at your desk and work.
It’s called the ‘Eyecam’ and is an engineering prototype described as an ‘anthropomorphic webcam’.
Capable of looking left and right, as well as blinking, the Eyecam is downright creepy if you ask us. Special care has been paid to the wrinkles in the skin, the individual hairs of the eyebrows and even the red vessels over the whites of the eye.
The creation is built from motors surrounded by 3D-printed silicone.
It was developed by Marc Teyssier and his team at the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at Saarland University, Germany. They have made the instructions for the Eyecam open source – so anyone can make one and have it blinking away atop their computer monitor.
Eyecam is a webcam shaped like a human eye. (Marc Teyssier)
Just imagine if you came into work after the pandemic and your boss had installed these things above all the workstations.
Modelled on human physiology, it’s composed of three main parts: a skin layer, (robotic) musculoskeletal system and the eyeball.
A small camera is positioned inside the pupil, sensing a high-resolution image. This camera is connected to a Raspberry Pi Zero mini-computer – which recognises it as a conventional plug-and-play webcam.
Like a human, Eyecam is always blinking and the eyelids dynamically adapt to movements of the eyeball, according to Teyssier.
Eyecam is a research project developed and built by Marc Teyssier. (Thorsten Mohr)
‘When Eyecam looks up, the top eyelid opens widely while the lower one closes completely,’ he said.
‘Eyecam can be autonomous and react on its own to external stimuli, such as the presence of users in front of it.’
Our eyes are crucial for communication, so if you could get over it, Eyecam could help you maintain eye contact during a video call.
The camera is connected to a Raspberry Pi computer (Marc Teyssier)
The whole point of the Eyecam is to shock people into remembering they’re being watched all the time.
Mission accomplished, we’d say.
‘We are surrounded by sensing devices,’ Teyssier says on his website.
‘From surveillance camera observing us in the street, Google or Alexa speakers listen to us or webcam in our laptop, constantly looking at us.
‘They are becoming invisible, blending into our daily lives, up to a point where we are unaware of their presence and stop questioning how they look, sense and act.’
‘While webcams share the same purpose as the human eye – seeing – they are not expressive, not conveying and transmitting affect as the human eyes do,’ Teyssier says.
You’re not likely to forget this thing is watching you (Marc Teyssier)
‘Through the look, we can perceive happiness, anger, boredom or fatigue. The eyes move around when someone is curious and took straight to maintain focus.
‘We are familiar with these interaction cues influencing our social behaviour. Eyecam brings back the affective aspects of the eye in the camera.’