Tech News

How to use your iPhone as a webcam for video conferencing and virtual meetings

Just because you’re working from home now doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to meetings. And just because you don’t have a spare webcam around doesn’t mean you need to peel back the tape that’s covering your laptop’s camera—as long as you have an iPhone or an iPad, you can easily turn it into a makeshift webcam.

Update 07/29/20: Since we first published this article, we have reviewed a new entry in this field, Camo. It may be the best way yet to use your iPhone as a Mac webcam, though the full version is not cheap.

There are a few different apps you can use, but we recommend Kinoni’s EpocCam Webcam. Not only is it easy to set up, but the free version with ads and occasional watermarking works with both Mac and PC (iVCam is a good option if you’re using Windows, and NDI just made its $20 HX Camera app free for 60 days). Any iOS device that’s running iOS 10.3 or later will work, so even if you have an old iPhone 5 or iPad mini 2 in a drawer, it’ll work. If you’re willing to pay, Camo works exceptionally well and gives you lots of great options in an easy-to-use interface.

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EpocCam will appear as an option in Zoom’s video settings.

To get started, first download the EpocCam app on your iPhone or iPad. Then head over to your Mac or PC and visit to download the driver for macOS (10.12 and later) or Windows (Windows 7 and later). Follow the steps to install and then restart your machine just to be sure it’s recognized.

Once you’re up and running, go back to your iPhone and launch the EpocCam app. Don’t be worried if all you see is a black screen with an image of a laptop and a phone pulsing circles—that means the app is searching for your computer. Once you launch an app on your computer that supports video, the EpocCam app will activate and bean video over Wi-Fi to your computer. For example, if you’re using Skype, go to the Audio & Video settings, and select EpocCam from the drop-down menu above the video screen. You can use this Github site to test the connection; Mac users can also download the EpocCam Viewer for Mac to test it. 

If you’re using the free version of EpocCam, the video will be limited to 640×480 at 30fps, but you can download EpocCam Webcamera for Computer for $8 to raise it to 1080p Full HD video. And if you’re looking to run more than one stream simultaneously (as well as the same HD features as EpocCam Webcamera), EpocCam MultiCam is available for $20. However, you’ll need a separate microphone, as EpocCam disables it on the iPhone while the camera is running.

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If you don’t see an image when you select the EpocCam, you probably just need to launch the app on your iPhone.

A few troubleshooting tips: If EpocCam isn’t listed as an option, try installing the driver again. If it still doesn’t work, make sure your iPhone and computer are both connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Also, if you see a black screen with a spinning loading icon in the video window and the iPhone app is open, try quitting the apps on both your iPhone and computer and relaunching. If that doesn’t fix it, try restarting your computer.

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Virtual reality and simulation see an uptick during the pandemic

Virtual reality and simulation have the potential to transform the way people work by enabling remote collaboration in ways never before possible. That was the sentiment experts expressed in a discussion on enterprise and “the metaverse” at GamesBeat’s Driving Game Growth & Into the Metaverse conference, which seeks to explore how virtual environments might impact both our daily lives and  industries.

We live in an increasingly virtual world, owing in part to a pandemic that shows worrisome signs of becoming endemic. As the health crises forces engineers, designers, and researchers to build and simulate physical worlds to test their designs, the big question for a growing number of executive decision-makers is whether these changes are here to stay — and what their implications might be.

Richard Karris, an industry general manager for media and entertainment at Nvidia, said he’s seen an uptick in use of Omniverse, Nvidia’s cloud platform designed to support design workflows and real-time coordination. Omniverse, which Nvidia announced during its GTC 2020 keynote event, launched in open beta in October after a yearlong early access program in which Ericsson, Foster + Partners, ILM, and over 40 other companies evaluated the platform and provided feedback to the Nvidia engineering team.

“We’ve seen architectural [and] manufacturing companies … make real initial progress with this platform. What they’ve been able to do is have a higher degree of simulation and a quicker degree of turnaround of ideas, no matter where they are,” Karris said. “We’re seeing some really innovative use cases, like car companies that are using this to visualize their car but tie the backend of the platform to their database for all the materials and components so they can, on the fly, configure a car and see what it’s going to be like in a photorealistic view.”

Christoph Fleischmann, the founder of Arthur Technologies, said he’s seen “huge adoption” of his company’s virtual reality technologies that provide virtual office spaces allowing teams to meet and manage work. These technologies provide employees a way to share ideas, concepts, and data rather than work on physical products, Fleischmann stressed — even during a global pandemic. “[Arthur isn’t] really visualizing the real world — we’re creating a virtual environment where people can meet and collaborate in 3D space,” he said. “In this segment of non-visualization, non-simulation use cases, our general business work is shifting towards this metaverse through solutions like ours.”

Indeed, Statista forecasts that the augmented reality and virtual reality market will hit $72.8 billion in 2024, when as many as 43.5 million headsets will be sold. And according to Markets and Markets, the simulation software market size was $5.1 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $13.45 billion in 2020.

Neither Fleischmann nor Raffaella Camera, a former global head of innovation and strategy at Accenture, believe headset form factors pose a barrier to adoption of virtual reality technologies. They point to the proliferation of affordable, portable products like Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 and Samsung Gear VR among others. However, both agree that realistic avatars remain a major challenge for the industry. Once it’s overcome, Fleischmann and Camera assert virtual reality will deliver emotional connections that today’s video calls can’t because it’ll make users feel present.

To this end, at the 2020 Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, a team affiliated with Facebook’s Oculus division presented research toward photorealistic avatars and full-body tracking. While the team warned that the technology was “years away” for consumer products, the photorealistic avatars, fully tracked from real motion, support the notion that the need for face-to-face interaction might fundamentally change in the years to come.

“If we want to do true meetings, in a virtual environment, whatever the platform, we need to be able to read what the other person is and what the other person means,” Camera said. “I think that once we have that embedded in the solutions and in the headsets or the devices versus just having it in the lab, it will be a completely different ballgame.”

Despite its potential, virtual reality and simulation aren’t likely to replace in-person experiences anytime soon, Fleischmann, Camera, and Karris agree. While these technologies might enable people to participate in events, meetings, and experiences that’d otherwise require travel, they won’t necessarily satisfy the need for socialization.

“One of the things that you get out of attending [conferences] is the, you know, the spontaneous,” Camera said. “You’re walking down the hall, you see someone — those types of things. I don’t think you’ll ever replace all that.”

Still, Fleischmann is bullish about virtual reality in the future. He asserts that enterprise will be a driving force in the adoption of VR, possibly “much faster” than gaming and entertainment because the benefits to companies from adopting this technology could be “huge.” (According to a 2019 PricewaterhouseCoopers report, by 2030, 23 million jobs will be using augmented reality and virtual reality in one way or another.)

“I think that in 20 years, we’ll tell our children that this is how we lived and how we made decisions, but it’ll sound barbaric to them — that geography dictated so much about our life,” Fleischmann said. “While I think there’s one way of looking at this in a really dystopian way — that we’re submitting ourselves to the matrix — I think the very, very positive way of seeing that is that you just make the landscape of opportunities really flat around the world, and you allow anyone to work with anyone in these virtual spaces. You can physically be wherever you want with your loved ones, or are at the beach.”


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How pandemic socialization trends have accelerated the move into virtual spaces

What will the social graph look like this year? What is it going to look like two years from now, and how is it going to be built?

To answer that question, Elena Arponen, CEO and co-founder of Quicksave Interactive, Bruce Grove, CEO and co-founder of Polystream, and Si Lumb, metamedia futurist, joined Wanda Meloni, CEO & Principal Analyst at M2 Insights, for the “Breaking the Fourth Wall” panel, on day two of Into the Metaverse event — and they talked about how evolving technology, post-pandemic socialization trends, and more are breaking down the fourth wall between those who make games, those who play them, and those who watch them.

“With Polystream, we’re developing Fantom, which is about thinking not just about how we get players into games or how we watch games, but we want to put people inside of games,” says Grove. “And we can now really think about it not just from the player’s perspective, but what does it mean from the spectator’s perspective? What does it mean to attend events, attend games, and join in with your friends? That’s what we’re building and working on — connecting all these pieces and breaking that fourth wall.”

Analysts say the last year has accelerated our move into virtual spaces by five years, he notes. With the pandemic, people are joining each other in spaces beyond gaming, like concerts, sports events, and conferences, and that has created a huge shift in moving our worlds online.

“What we’re going to see is, increasingly, how do we want to be able to move between all of these different experiences?” he says. “How do we make it seamless to go from a conference to a music event to a sports event, play the game, watch the game? This year we’re going to see a big emphasis on taking part, but not always taking part as a player.”

“The existing social graphs will play a strong role this year and in the coming years, because people have spent a lot of time building up those social graphs,” Arponen said. “Certainly you can make new friends and build new graphs, but I do think it will be important to have the interoperability for these existing social environments — where you can bring your network easily to these new places, and they’ll be working together.”

The key thing is the portability of those networks, Lumb said. He points to the way people often have had to reconnect across platforms, sometimes time after time. He notes how his social group has moved from a social work IRC that grew large enough to move to a company Slack space, to a Discord channel when part of the group left the company.

“We’ve taken the graph, but every time we remade those connections,” he said. “[That’s the] challenge for the coming year, and there will be lots of people trying to solve this.”

Xbox Live and PlayStation have social components, the Epic Games Store allows you to log in with a number of social graphs, Steam has connectivity — so how do you find a way to interconnect these virtual spaces, find the network of other games to play?

“It’s something that absolutely has to be solved by technology companies,” Lumb added. And with the pandemic bringing older folks into virtual spaces to stay connected, he says, “we’ll see so many generations to attend virtual experiences. That human behavior is then portable. If we can solve some of the tech things, there’s a glide path into this stuff that should make the acceleration, just catalyze it even further. I think we’ll see rapid progress in 2021.”

“We’re working on how we connect them,” Grove says. “How do we make it easy for people to go into these spaces? We want to extend it beyond the player. We want to make it so that if you want to jump in a game just to wander around, maybe become an NPC or maybe use it as a social environment — that extends into how we’re using games and game technology.”

You can see this with how Unreal and Unity are being used to develop technology that goes beyond games — technology that moves into cross-media and transmedia, being used for film and TV, he said.

“What does it mean if we create all these spaces that can now also become interactive?” Grove said. “If we can use the cloud, we can create these huge enormous open worlds, and then make it very easy for people to join in.”

The cloud will offer the ability to connect the devices that connect users, allowing social graphs to cross many different places, move seamlessly between them, because it’ll be easier when we can offload a lot of the compute.

“We can create big universes, we can create networks and infrastructure,” Grove said. “We can just say, whatever device I’m on, however I want to connect, I want to jump into that space right now. I don’t need to be part of that ecosystem already. I can just join it because I’ve been invited, and I can become a part of it.”

The problem is the broad variability in access to devices. VR headsets are still not ubiquitous, and while the penetration of smartphones is enormous, the capabilities of devices still vary widely.

“The question is, sure, you can offload to the cloud, and the cloud’s provided an advantageous opportunity given the prevalence of decoder silicon for video, to allow us, with the improvements in networking and the close proximity of data centers, to get something that’s very good with modern cloud gaming,” Lumb said. “But it’s still far away, and so there are some elements of the speed of light you get stuck with. So the question is, what can we do that’s hybrid, that uses end points that are closer to the user and the devices in the user’s hands?”

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Virtual artist Miquela debuted a music video at Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza moved online this year, and the music festival kicked off in an appropriately online way: with the debut of a new music video from virtual creator Miquela. The video is an entirely CG affair, created remotely, for the single “Hard Feelings.” It depicts Miquela and a dance crew on the back of a flatbed track, as they twist their way through a desert landscape that slowly morphs into something more surreal.

For the uninitiated, Miquela is essentially a digital avatar that started out as a CG influencer on Instagram and has since expanded into the world of music, releasing several singles and music videos since 2017. She’s part of a burgeoning field of digital influencers.

According to Nicole de Ayora, CCO of Brud, the company behind Miquela, the Lollapalooza video reveal came about after the festival decided to shift to an online format. The “Hard Feelings” video also differs from her past music videos in a few ways. To start, it was created entirely remotely; there was a director in Toronto, a New York-based choreographer, and other contributors in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

But “Hard Feelings” also takes advantage of Miquela’s digital nature. Her past videos have all attempted to insert the digital character into the real world to varying degrees of success, but in “Hard Feelings,” the team built a world around her. The video was made using Unreal Engine, among other tools, while virtual cameras were used to set up shots that had a grounding in reality but that were also impossible in the real world.

“Miquela has spent years fitting in with humans, so we were eager to show-off a world that could only be her own,” says de Ayora. “With people sheltering in place, we wanted to crack open the outside world and let the audience revel in the idea of skipping town after heartache. Everything in ‘Hard Feelings’ feels like a maxed-out version of something familiar — nostalgic spaces that reach just beyond reality. Traveling through those haunting and enchanting landscapes, Miquela and her dancers perform hypnotic, gravity-defying choreography at 80 mph.”

The debut of Miquela’s new video is part of a continuing trend of music and concerts going digital. There are concerts in Minecraft, Hatsune Miku has gone on tour, Travis Scott created a musical spectacle for millions in Fortnite, and a virtual rendition of The Weeknd will perform on Tik Tok. This convergence has only become more pronounced as everyone is forced into quarantine — making it an ideal time for Miquela to try something new.

“For the first time, she is showing fans that she isn’t bound by her physical body or the human world,” de Ayora says.

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Tech News

Pinterest’s new AR feature lets you try on virtual eyeshadow

Shopping online is the primary way people get most of the items they want or need, but there are some downsides: you can’t try on clothes to make sure they’ll fit right and it’s not easy to determine whether a particular makeup color will look good on you. Pinterest has introduced another feature that addresses the latter problem, one that lets you virtually try-on eye shadow before buying it.

The feature is called ‘AR Try on,’ and it is now available for eyeshadows from a few brands: NYX Cosmetics, Urban Decay, Lancome, and YSL. Eyeshadow products listed on Pinterest that are included in this feature will show a small ‘Try on’ button in the bottom right corner of the image, as well as a camera icon.

Tapping this will pull up your phone’s camera in the app, where you’ll be able to scroll through different eyeshadow color options and see them realistically overlaid on your eyelids. The feature is powered by Pinterest’s Lens feature and is available on both iOS and Android.

The platform includes options for filtering the results to specific brands, price ranges, and color, as well as seeing similar products and saving items to a board. The new feature joins Pinterest’s Try on feature for lipstick, which works in the same way and currently includes more than 4,000 lipstick shades.

Users who decide to purchase a product they try on will be directed to the retailer’s website for the transaction, Pinterest notes. This is the latest expansion of the company’s augmented reality features, the most notable being its Lens tool. With this, users can point their phone’s camera at an object, then browse through results featuring similar content.

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