Windows only: Microsoft Office Labs has released an open source multi-touch application framework called Touchless that uses your webcam as the input. Right now the Touchless Demo lets you play with four proof-of-concept ideas: Draw, Image, Snake, and Defend. The first is a free-form drawing application, while Image is an image manipulation utility that allows you to zoom in or out and move around on a map with marker gestures. The other two are games (Snake is exactly like the classic, and Defend is up to four-person Pong). To set up a marker that Touchless tracks, just grab something colorful, click Add A New Marker, then draw a circle around the object. From there on out, Touchless will monitor that marker wherever it is in the shot. Right now the application is a little clunky, but as a proof-of-concept it's not bad (and it's fun to play with). Before long multi-touch may not be limited to people who can afford several thousand dollar equipment, after all.
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The webcam that came packaged with your computer system can do a whole lot more than just let you video chat. With the right tools, you can turn your webcam into a watchful surveillance tool, a face recognition-enabled computer login utility, a time-lapse movie-maker, and more. Let's take a look at some ways you can get more out of your underutilised webcam.
Linux only: One intrepid Ubuntu user has written up a nifty tutorial on using a webcam tool available in the standard repositories, motion, to turn a standard webcam into a motion-detecting security system. Once the camera sees something large enough move as to be suspicious, a custom script written by the blogger sends a notification to you through your Twitter account. It might not be the most reliable theft or home invasion prevention tool, but it could offer insight into when your roommates are invading your space or whether someone's using your laptop when they shouldn't be. The tutorial requires some command line work, but it's spelled out and explained pretty thoroughly. Photo by MShades. Keep Tab On Home Security With A Webcam And Twitter
Modern Linux systems have advanced to the point of supporting (in one way or another) most kinds of essential computer hardware—it's the peripherals that cause the vast majority of headaches. But thanks to some helpful community hackers, a wide array of webcams, from cheap to professional, can be implemented in the open-source operating system. Carla Schroder, author of The Linux Cookbook, offers a great guide for anyone trying to get their webcam set up and usable in Linux, including suggestions for software and how to find out what your distro has named your webcam. There's a part two around the corner, according to the guide, with likely more advanced tips and tricks. Photo by ThenAndAgain. Webcams in Linux, Part 1