This webcam dares to ask: what if the panopticon had meat?


Many digital eyes and ears are on us as we move our daily lives. Security cameras watch us on the street and smart devices listen to us in our homes. What if part of that viewing was done through an expressive simulacrum of a human eye?

Researcher Marc Teyssier took it upon himself to create such a device, giving a webcam synthetic flesh and a moving eyeball, complete with eyebrow and eyelashes. Note: the Eyecam.

Image: Marc Teyssier

You can see it in action – blink, glance, show emotions – in the video below, which also tells us to use our imaginations:

Imagine Eyecam waking up alone.

Imagine Eyecam observing all your steps.

Imagine Eyecam always there …

… even if you don’t want it there!

If you can get past the creepy valley creepiness it’s a fun piece of equipment. When you look at the people in the video wearing it in their palms, it almost looks cute. And the project, part of research at Saarland University Human-Computer Interaction Lab, examines interesting questions. How would we interact with our devices if they were more human? How would our behavior change if the surveillance around us felt so much more tangible?

If you want to make a watchful companion yourself, the Eyecam’s design and software are available on Github, and Teyssier promises a full step-by-step construction video is in the works. More details are available at Teyssier’s websitealong with an abundance of images at every stage of the build process.

Pieces of hardware and circuitry assembled in a square, at the bottom is what looks like plastic eyelids on hinges.

Eyecam’s innards.
Image: Marc Teyssier

Two hands, one braced on the bottom of a container, and the other pulled out a piece of synthetic meat with eyelids.  The eyeball has not yet been placed.

And its fleshy exterior.
Image: Marc Teyssier

If you feel like falling down a rabbit hole of creepy gadgets, there is also Teyssier’s phone with a moving finger and flesh-covered phone caseIf your skin is sick, check out Disney’s meatless robot and this furry robot dog.