Friendly Webcam Robot Keeps An Eye On Privacy

Wouldn’t it be nice if every webcam had a hardware switch? Especially for those built-in webcams like the one in your laptop. Since they don’t have switches yet, we’re just stuck trying to remember to turn them off or re-apply the sticker after every meeting. [Becky Stern] was tired of trying to remember to blind the all-seeing eye, and decided to make a robot companion that would do it for her.

Essentially, a servo-driven, 3D-printed eyelid covers the eye’s iris and also the web cam directly underneath. At first, we though [Becky] had liberated the business parts of a cheap webcam and built it into the eyeball, but this is far less intrusive. The eyeball simply sits atop the monitor, and [Becky] can control the eyelid two ways: she can set a timer with the potentiometer to close it automatically after some number of minutes, or else do it on demand using the momentary button. We’d love to see it tied directly to Zoom and or whatever else [Becky] uses regularly. Be sure to check out the build and demo video after the break to see it in action.

We love this cute and friendly reminder that the camera could be watching us. It’s way less creepy than this realistic eyeball webcam that looks around and blinks.

8 thoughts on “Friendly Webcam Robot Keeps An Eye On Privacy

  1. There are actually some laptops with physical camera kill switches. I have a 2019 HP Spectre x360 that I picked in no small part at the time precisely because of this kill switch (along with other prerequisites).

    It supposedly hard kills the mic too.

    Every laptop should have this feature, but it seems we live in a permanent wociety of voyeurs with no privacy.

    1. Some Thinkpads (can only speak for the X280s) have a piece of plastic that obstructs the camera and is only actuated by hand. I’ve never thought of it until now but hopefully the plastic is opaque to IR as well as visible light.

    2. Yes, in the last few years manufacturers finally started to put covers on laptop cameras. When I was looking for a new laptor recently, most models had covers. It’s a good trend.

  2. For years, I’ve been using stickers and post-its to cover my webcam, giving me peace of mind knowing that it’s only accessible when I want it to be. The only challenge is remembering to replace the sticker after each meeting.

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