The mad scientists over at the Human Computer Interaction Lab want us to think about who is watching us with the Eyecam (opens in new tab). The Eyecam is an anthropomorphic webcam modeled after the human eye, eyebrow, and all. This project highlights the inherent privacy issues when it comes to different sorts of devices we willingly put into our homes.
We've all wondered just how intrusive our smart home devices are. As creepy as it sounds (and it is objectively creepy), at least with the Eyecam, you know when it's watching you. You really can't say the same about your Amazon Alexa or your smart fridge.
The creator of the Eyecam, Marc Teyssier, who worked on other flesh-inspired projects, says on his blog that the Eyecam is meant for us to "rethink the relationship between humans and sensing devices through novel design." And there is nothing more novel than a fleshy, blinking eye that looks like it fell out of a Picasso.
"Should the device be transparent and invisible to the user? What are the next social and ethical challenges of IoT? What is the balance between mediation and intrusion? How can we design for the right amount of agency to smart sensing devices? How can reinforce privacy and show the user they are being watched? How can we design smart devices to be present where needed, but respectfully absent when not?"
A webcam that looks like a person watching you is unsettling. Scratch that; it's downright horrifying. It's meant to make you think about the devices in your home that can listen and see you that don't look like parts of the human anatomy.
The software Eyecam uses is an open-source project, so if you want to create your own eyes that watch you work, everything you need is right here (opens in new tab). Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to cover all my webcams with post-it notes and toss my Echo Dot out the window.