Tech

Eyecam takes eye contact to the creepiest level

Its makers want people to rethink their relationship with sensing devices.

Saarland University

Despite the ubiquity of webcams and security systems that can detect movement and sound, people seem indifferent to the presence of technology that might be watching their every move. Perhaps it’s because of how stealthy their design is, how understated their existence can be.

Saarland University

Saarland University

With the Eyecam, however, eye contact gets exponentially more unsettling. The Eyecam is shaped quite literally like a human eye. It blinks, it frowns, it wiggles its eyebrow, and — the creepiest of its features — it keeps an actual eye on you.

Saarland University

The camera is like any webcam in other respects; it can help you during video conferences, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, and other activities.Saarland University

The brains behind the Eyecam

The research project by Marc Teyssier alongside Marion Koelle, Paul Strohmeier, Bruno Fruchard, and Jurgen Steimle was developed at the Saarland University Human-Computer Interaction Lab.

Its makers paid attention to the most minute details; the Eyecam has a rather thick eyebrow, spider legs-like eyelashes, crow's feet by the edge of the eye, thick eyelid, and other uncomfortably realistic aesthetics such as its rubbery faux-human skin. The eyebrow and eyelashes you see are made of human hairs in silicone.

A close-up of fingers holding just a fake eyeball, minus the pupil, and a tiny camera

“We are surrounded by sensing devices. From surveillance cameras 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.”

Marc Teyssier

The fake skin covering for the Eyecam is shown

The Eyecam has three simple parts. It has a skin layer (which people creepily stroke in a promotional video for the camera), a robotic musculoskeletal system, and an artificial colored eyeball. Six servo-motors in the camera emulate the movement of the average human eye with lateral and vertical motion, including the ability to eyeroll.

White plastic components of the Eyecam's interior are presented on a flat black background

The motors were manufactured with an Arduino Nano and the camera inside this faux-pupil boasts high resolution capabilities. In other words, while the eye gazes at you, you'll look good on Zoom.

Saarland University

Thankfully, the makers of this uncomfortably real webcam are not interested in pushing it to the market where consumers could ironically buy a surveillance system out of a horror film. "Its goal is to spark speculations on devices' aestheticism and functions," they say.

If you’re not too turned off by now, you can make an Eyecam for yourself by checking these GitHub files. Teyssier and team are also working on a video tutorial, too. Good luck?

@weareforeal / Giphy

@weareforeal / Giphy