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Tech tips

More than just video calls: 8 new uses for your webcam

Thanks to the pandemic, video calls have become more common than ever before. People who never even made a video call are now using the tech to keep in touch for work, school, or simply a virtual happy hour.

You probably notice the difference in care among your friends, family and coworkers when on a video call. Aside from how much effort they put into their clothing (nothing wrong with pajamas for a casual chat), some people seem to look better. You don’t need a makeover or filters to improve your virtual appearance. Tap or click here for Kim’s tips on looking good for video calls.

But your webcam can be used for more than simply making video calls. It’s a useful gadget that can help with security and add fun and entertainment to your day. Read on for eight ways to get more out of your webcam.

1. Turn your webcam into a security camera

Security cameras can be expensive, but you can start a basic surveillance system using your webcam and an app. Search for an app that has motion detection and alert features. Also, check if the footage is stored remotely or locally. In the second case, you’ll need storage space on your hard drive.

RELATED: This app lets you fake a lousy connection during Zoom calls

We recommend Critter.Camera, which enables you to turn your old devices like tablets and smartphones into security cameras. Tap or click here for a step-by-step guide on setting up security cameras using your existing tech.

2. Remember, the “cam” in webcam stands for camera

Your webcam can shoot video, but it can also be used for taking still images. Your webcam may come with software to take photos, but you can also search for apps to accomplish this and get some editing tools to go with it.

Windows Camera, available free from Microsoft, features panorama mode, HDR, framing grids, photo timers and more.

3. Bring some flavor to your video chats

You can add filters, accessories and backgrounds to your feeds to bring a little fun to your virtual meetups. It’s up to you to read the room, however. This might not be the best idea during an important meeting!

There are plenty of options when it comes to filtering apps, and we like Snap Camera. This lens works with Zoom, Google Hangout, Google Meet, Skype, OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) and Twitch. You can even turn yourself into a cartoon character. Tap or click here for more details on how Snap Camera works.

4. Why rent a photo booth when you have a webcam?

The holidays are coming up and people are getting together to celebrate. You can set up a photo booth using your webcam. People can walk up to your computer and take solo or group shots which can be shared with everyone at the party. Throw in some fun accessories for people to wear if you like.

Photo Booth Pro is a free app for Windows that lets you add real-time effects to your images and videos and capture single photos or photo strips. Its 33 high-definition camera effects include Grayscale, Mirror, 3D Flip, Fisheye and Pinch. The footage is saved locally or on OneDrive.

5. Unlock your computer the same way you unlock your phone

Why should your phone get all the neat security features? You probably use a password to unlock your computer, but you can take your privacy a step further with facial recognition.

Windows Hello lets you use a PIN, facial recognition or fingerprint to unlock your Windows 10 and 11 devices. Windows Hello Face uses infrared technology to scan your face, so you do need a compatible webcam.

6. Turn yourself into a gaming controller

Motion detection in video games is nothing new, as the technology was popularized by the Nintendo Wii and continued with Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation Move. You can do the same with your computer and webcam.

CamSpace lets you use your body movements to control games. You can play right in your browser!

7. Use your body as a mouse

You can relax and control your actions on your computer without being hunched over a mouse. This is especially useful for people with mobility issues.

CameraMouse is a free program that lets you use your head to move your mouse pointer on the screen. The software was developed for people with cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, ALS, MS, brain injury and various neurological disorders.

8. Shoot time-lapse videos

Time-lapse videos are fun to create and share. You can do a time-lapse of your face over a year or compress your 2-hour house party into a 20-second time-lapse video. The only limit is your imagination.

RELATED: Weekend project: 5 simple ways to make your home safer

VideoVelocity lets you record time-lapse video from any webcam. You can grab snapshots from the footage and do with them as you please. The program is free, but you can upgrade to the HD version for $98.

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