A decade or so ago, there was a concerted attempt to introduce the idea of video-conferencing for the home, with telephones which could also send image data to each other. They were expensive and, since you needed one at each end of the line, not a lot of people bought them. In the Internet age, however, video-conferencing is having a significant impact, initially for business users wanting to communicate face-to-face with colleagues halfway across the world, and more recently with consumers who just want to have a bit of fun while pulling silly faces into a camera.
This camera from Pace is pretty well suited to both types of user. Taking advantage of the over-hyped and under-used USB bus, which is present in recent PCs in the shape of a small rectangular socket or two, the Colour Video Camera USB can be installed in rather less time than it takes to say its name. Once the driver software’s been installed you just plug in the camera and start using it. Or unplug it and stop using it. There’s no need to reboot the PC (this is one of the benefits of virtually any USB device).
Unlike those steam-driven video-phones of old, you don’t need to have someone on the other end of the line in order to make use of this camera, although you can, of course, use it for video-conferencing over a standard telephone line. You could also record a video message and send it via e-mail to someone, who could then play it back without special software. Or perhaps you’d like to set your PC up as a surveillance camera, designed to notify you whenever movement is detected. It’s rather more expensive than CCTV, but the software is supplied should you wish to use it.
There are plenty of other utilities in the box, allowing you to make the most of the camera’s 352 x 288 pixel operation, with frame rates up to 30 frames per second (although that’s far too high for conventional video-conferencing, and the lower the frame rate, the less bandwidth is required). There’s even a piece of software that will identify you based on your facial features, and lock out any users it doesn’t recognise. Just remember to disable it if you decide to grow a beard.
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