SADLY, MANY of the people with the technology, know-how and time to transmit real-time graphical images across the Web don't have anything worth transmitting. Luckily, they haven't let this stop them.
Boot up your computer, load up Netscape (the best web browser) and turn to the Third Stream Computing Gadgets Room at http://www-ts.cs.oberlin. edu/rooms/gadgets.html. Here you will find bizarre, almost-live pictures: watch a goldfish circle its bowl somewhere in Connecticut or a stranger watching TV in LA. But the "really there but why would you want to be?" experience is taken to its limits by Steve at MIT (http://www-white.media.mit.edu/steve/netcam.html).
Steve is a self-styled "tech-nomad" who walks round Harvard with a camera on his head and a "visualfilter" covering his eyes. The image you see when you access his Web page is exactly the same as Steve himself is seeing. You really are in his shoes. Steve explains his philosophy:
"I perceive my surroundings by viewing rather than seeing; this means that another person can `view' the world exactly as I do. I can presently send my visual field anywhere in the world, using the Internet as a communications medium."
And that's not all. Steve uses his experiment as a key to his thoughts on Net security and issues of privacy. In order to combat the covert surveillance of closed-circuit TV and security cameras, he says, everybody should use the overt tactic of wearing a camera on their head linked to the Internet. Sounds mad, but think about it. Why walk alone along a dark street at night when you could be chatting to a friend on your portable audio/visual communications system; if anything happens, they can call for help.
From time to time, Steve gives watchers a break from his Wearable Webcam, attaching the camera to a remote control car which tours around his office, or adding text to the still images he transmits, turning his life into a comic-strip. These images are substituted for live transmission when the signal is poor, or when the video is switched off to respect people's privacy.
Steve's stills are, of course, very still, and Web voyeurs may tire of this stilted snapshot of life. But not to worry. The latest technology allows viewers to interact with what they're seeing. Now you can have a life and surf the Web. If you want to play in the snow without getting your mittens wet, Rome Labs have the answer at: http://www.rl.af.mil:8001/Odds- n-Ends/sbcam/rlsbcam.html. The Snowball Cam. Click on an image of the room; aim at someone's head; when the page refreshes, see where your shot landed. For a quieter life, you can tend the flowers in the Internet interactive garden at http://www.usc.edu/dept/garden. Control a robot arm remotely by clicking on a video image and (if you register) you can plant, water, and weed. Then, after a hard day's surfing, lie back and look at the stars through Bradford's interactive telesccope at: http://www.telescope.org/Reuse content