Unlike an IP camera (which connects using Ethernet or Wi-Fi), a webcam is generally connected by a USB cable, or similar cable, or built into computer hardware, such as laptops.The term "webcam" (a clipped compound) may also be used in its original sense of a video camera connected to the Web continuously for an indefinite time, rather than for a particular session, generally supplying a view for anyone who visits its web page over the Internet.The video streams provided by webcams can be used for a number of purposes, each using appropriate software: Most modern webcams are capable of capturing arterial pulse rate by the use of a simple algorithmic trick.Researchers claim that this method is accurate to within 5 bpm.Small webcam-based PC games are available as either standalone executables or inside web browser windows using Adobe Flash.With very-low-light capability, a few specific models of webcams are very popular to photograph the night sky by astronomers and astro photographers.Webcams may be installed at places such as childcare centres, offices, shops and private areas to monitor security and general activity.
For a more complete list see Comparison of webcam software.
Webcam can be added to instant messaging, text chat services such as AOL Instant Messenger, and Vo IP services such as Skype, one-to-one live video communication over the Internet has now reached millions of mainstream PC users worldwide.
Improved video quality has helped webcams encroach on traditional video conferencing systems.
For example, the position of a single light source can be tracked and used to emulate a mouse pointer, a head-mounted light would enable hands-free computing and would greatly improve computer accessibility.
This can be applied to games, providing additional control, improved interactivity and immersiveness.
When "captured" by the computer, the video stream may be saved, viewed or sent on to other networks via systems such as the internet, and email as an attachment.