Webcam mouse replacement software uses the webcam to watch either the angle of your head or eyes to control the cursor on the screen. It replaces the mouse – ideally it moves the mouse pointer where you look. It is aimed at those unable to move a mouse or have difficulty controlling one with precision, and when combined with a dwell clicker it can make a mouse completely irrelevant.
The market leader and my favourite is Enable Viacam (eViacam). It is open source and free. There are alternatives: CameraMouse, Facial Mouse and Kinect for the PC seems to have the same potential, for example KinEmote, but eViacam seems to be the most popular within the community.
On install (eViacam) you go through a relatively long setup process, particularly adjusting the exposure of you camera. It requires good lighting and a well-positioned decent webcam capable of putting out at least 25fps. To use it successfully, you need to be able to move your head smoothly but without moving its location quickly. Once you have this setup you see a small window on your screen displaying your webcam feed with a small blue box around your head. At this point tilt your head right and the cursor moves right, left and it moves left.
It works quite well, but there is a certain amount of lag involved at least on my system and webcam – admittedly not the fastest system in the world – but it was perfectly usable with a little practice for simple browsing and computer operation and “I was able to type this using an on-screen keyboard”. I tried it successfully on a couple of tower defense and strategy games and crafting within SWTOR but as soon as I tried something needing quicker reactions I was overwhelmed and too slow.
These programs are exellent for certain situations – where the user has poor hand control but good head control and are certainly interesting to the rest of us but as of yet they don’t quite feel mature enough to use reliably within games. They are so hardware dependent, without the high-spec hardware the software suffers greatly and as they can be unreliable at the worst time and have relatively slowly reaction time, they are difficult to use within fast-paced games.
There are plenty of disabled gamers who do use them successfully, but doing so require great precision in set-up, investing in the right hardware and spending a lot of time practising good head-control and even then, the lag creates a permanent drawback. Hopefully, in a few years time, software applications like these will improve enough to be equal level and viable gaming alternatives to the traditional gaming mouse.