Camera Mouse is a simple Windows app that lets you use your head movements to move the mouse cursor. You can use it to scroll web-pages, open applications and play games as well. The app was developed at Boston college for people with disorders that hamper hand movements such as Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, etc. The app is free to use and requires no extra-peripherals. It works easily on any Windows OS.
Before jumping in, just a heads up that the scrolling speed and accuracy depends on the video quality of the webcam. So, a poor webcam may lead to poor scrolling and accuracy.
Quick How-to: Calibrate and Other Settings
Foremost, download and install the software. Post-installation, you’ll be prompted to calibrate a “Feature of the face”. This will be the hook for all the tracking movements. Here’s a quick tip, I mostly use my nose-tip or chin as a face feature to track, as it’s an easy way to find a midpoint and handle the mouse. After you’re done, you can move your head and see the mouse movement in the preview. You can change this tracker at any given time.
Once you’ve set a tracking point, the software will use it to move the pointer. Apart from that, there are a few other settings like the “Dwell Time” that can be used to enhance the user experience.
Now, the exact meaning of “Dwell Time” is the left click of your mouse. This works for the selection purpose. In my opinion, it is the most important feature that you should enable as soon as you install the Camera Mouse app. To do that, simply go to the “Settings” menu and from the “Clicking” tab, check the clicking option. In my case, I have kept “One Second” of dwell time with “Normal Radius” (for better accuracy).
Other features, such as a hotkey to start the movement pointer, double-tap, setting pointer sensitivity, etc, are some settings the user can tweak.
Can I run other applications with the software?
No! But if you’re able to surpass the urge to use your mouse, here are few applications like Copter and Aliens & Paint which doesn’t require a dependency on the keyboard or a mouse. If you want to use it more seriously and want to practice typing, downloading applications such as Free Virtual Keyboard will let you type by just pointing at the on-screen keyboard. I did try it with the Windows in-built on-screen keyboard, but it didn’t work at all. It’s even good for kids as it exposes them, to focus on building games that are designed specially to enhance choice making skills using focused gaze, like Look to Learn.
- Doesn’t work fluently until kept on a plain platform like a table-top
- Isn’t practical for complete accuracy and small targets
- Blacks out when other apps access the camera
- Is not able to handle light changes properly
- Not a replacement for the mouse
There are few alternatives that you can try, but if you’re on Windows, Camera Mouse app should suffice. One alternative is a powerful Chrome extension called Cam Scroller. It’s open-source where you need to create your own custom gestures to scroll. But it doesn’t work as fluently as Camera Mouse. Also, the app isn’t available on Android, but if you still want to play around, you can install EVA Facial Mouse app, which has on-screen Action Menu for easy scrolling and control. There is an option for Mac users too, called iTracker (Not on app store) which you can buy for $34.99. Although, it comes with just a 30-minute trial period which is far too less.
This can’t be a replacement for the mouse, but for someone like me who spends a long time on the computer looking at web pages, researching and even writing, it can be a great addition to the mouse. So, I can grab the mouse whenever I want, but when I’m working on WordPress and all my fingers are occupied with the keyboard, it’s a great way to scroll and switch between tabs without the need to lift my fingers up while typing. If you find this method useful or use another way to replace your mouse, do let me know in the comment section below!