Wednesday 6 October 2010

Webcams: live streaming

For the uninitiated, a webcam is a video camera attached to a computer and allows you, the user, to pass a video feed over the Internet usually as part of some sort of instant messaging. As well as a video signal, it will do audio. However, the term also has another meaning as a video camera filming something and streaming the signal continuously over the Net. And it is here that I start my article by saying that there is an unbelievable amount of stuff going on in the world. It is difficult to keep up!

I have blathered on several times about how Google impresses me with the idea of bringing the disparate of the world to my fingertips. See my blog Google and Google Street View: The world at our fingertips. Let's add to the web pages, the pictures, the videos and the gawd-only-knows-what-else, the live video feeds available to us from a variety of webcams placed all over the planet.

Note: Some webcams are actually live but some only provide periodic updates to what is essentially a static image. These updates can vary from every second or two to once a minute to possibly every 15 minutes. While the updates are continuous and the images are being taken live, this isn't exactly the same as "live streaming" which infers something continuous like television.

What is streaming?
Instead of you downloading a video file onto your local hard drive then viewing it, you connect a video player of some sort to a video source on the Internet. You watch the content as it is delivered to your computer for display but you do not store the content as a file. Yes, video can be downloaded but streaming means you don't have to.

Some sample live streaming video
I hunted around and found a few live webcams.

Times Square, New York City
This webcam is pointing out the 2nd floor window of the restaurant TGI Friday's and looks directly into the square with a live feed.

Niagara Falls
This camera is set up at the Fallsview Plaza Hotel and provides a live feed of the area showing the "Canadian Falls", the "American Falls" and Victoria Park in the direction of the Rainbow Bridge.

Abbey Road, London England
This live feed shows the crossing on Abbey Road where the Beatles were photographed for the cover of their famous album of the same name.

Rio de Janeiro
Host city of the 2016 Olympic Games

The Bubble Cam
The owners have set up this webcam in a south Florida garden but the "feature" of this cam is that you, the viewer, can click on a button to activate bubbles, the type of soap bubbles you blow with a ring. Quite amusing. These people provide stats on the visits and describe how they did this with a picture of what the device looks like.

This is basically a pre-recorded TV show streamed over the Internet much like any of the videos you would see on YouTube. Many news services offer webcasts of their shows plus actual TV shows and movies can be found. The idea is that you don't download some big file onto your hard drive; you "stream" the show and view it on your screen.

webcast: CBC: The National:

webcast: ABC News:

Streamed TV shows
Care to make a go of it without a cable subscription? Well, there is streamed TV available on the Internet; the trick is finding it. Not quite the same as a TV set, but there it is and it's free. Last night I watched a complete episode of Desperate Housewives with no commercials. Okay, it wasn't wide screen high definition but unlike your bill, my monthly total charges for Rogers cable TV this month stands at zero.

I just had to add a blurb about this after running across this report on it from CNN. In a nutshell, you hook up to this Internet service with your webcam. It then randomly pairs you up with somebody else in the world so you can have a webcam chat. Seems innocuous, right? Well, the service has been clamping down as there have been numerous complaints about people doing naughty things. You click on "next" to go to the next randomly selected person and you may just be confronted with somebody stark naked. I'm sorry; I was laughing away reading the CNN report about this thinking about just how dumb people can be on the Internet. They wouldn't do such a thing in real life but put them in front of a computer where they feel sort of anonymous and divorced from dealing with actual people, then all of this unbridled, unfiltered nonsense comes pouring of them completely unchecked by the normal social rules by which we are all governed. It is simply quite amazing.

I haven't actually tried this service but after reading the reports on it, I'm not sure I want to. My evening's entertainment doesn't usually include "random naked guy".

Wikipedia: Chatroulette

CNN: Chatroulette offers random webcam titillation - Feb 24/2010

official website: Chatroulette

Final Word
The world is a big place. The Internet is a big place. Who can keep up with everything going on? I repeat how I am amazed at just how much stuff there is. With over 6 billion people on the planet, there are a lot and I do mean a lot of contributors to this stuff.

I leave you with a phenomenon known as car surfing, one of the runner-ups for a Darwin award?


Wikipedia: Webcam

Wikipedia: Streaming Media

Google: Webcams in and around Toronto
On any Google map, there is an option called "More" where you can turn superimpose on the map various points of information including where web cams are found.,-79.484711&spn=0.583979,1.674042&z=10&

MTO: Traffic Cams
These images are updated every 3 to 5 minutes but are not automatically updated on the page you are viewing. You must manually do a refresh.

EarthCam: live webcams from around the world

CamVista: collection of webcams

goadnroam: collection of webcams

Wikipedia Webcast

Wikipedia: Car Surfing


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