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Creepy 'Eyecam' is shaped just like a human EYE and can see, blink, look around and observe you during video calls

  • Eyecam is an anthropomorphic webcam that helps its users keep eye contact during their daily video calls
  •  It's been created as the very opposite of webcams and embedded cameras that are almost too small to notice
  •  At first glance it looks scarily realistic, right down to the wrinkles in the skin and vessels in the white of the eye 
  •  Engineers have created a creepy prototype webcam shaped just like the human eye, called the Eyecam. 
 Inspired by animatronics, Eyecam attaches to the front of a computer monitor and looks left and right – and even blinks – while tracking the face of each individual during a video call. At first glance, it looks scarily realistic, right down to the wrinkles in the skin, the individual hairs that make up the eyebrows and the red vessels over the white of the eye. 
 Eyecam – which is comprised of motors surrounded by 3D-printed silicone – is open source, meaning you could create your own version at home.
Eyecam has been created by Marc Teyssier and his team at the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at Saarland University, Germany. 
 Modelled on human physiology, it's is composed of three main parts – the skin layer, the (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 and is detected by the computer 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.
'When Eyecam looks up, the top eyelid opens widely while the lower one closes completely,' he says. 'Eyecam can be autonomous and react on its own to external stimuli, such as the presence of users in front of it.' Teyssier says on his website that sensing devices are so ubiquitous, up to the point that we become unaware of their presence. 
 Computer webcams have become smaller and smaller in the last 20 years, and most are now a small barely noticeable circle embedded into the top of the device. Other devices that have recording equipment embedded – such as security cams for the smart home – are now deliberately designed to blend into their surroundings.
Eyecam has been designed to do quite the opposite – indeed, it would give anyone who came across it something of a shock. 
 '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.' 
 Human eyes are crucial for communication – so Eyecam could help users maintain eye contact during their daily video calls.
'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. '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.' Teyssier has authored a research paper on the device with his colleagues, while the open-source repository is available on his website.
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