Joy! The folks at the BBC got me an iSight camera for a leaving present, and I've been playing with it over the weekend. I downloaded ToySight, and as I always find, this physical way of interacting is incredibly compelling. I played for all of two minutes (skydiving and navigating the options), quitted the game, went back to IM with the video window open, and immediately waved my right hand to bring a menu up. And it didn't work! Frustrating!
Later that night, we watched TV by sending it upstairs using the camera and one-way video chat (in iChat). Really. That's what happens when the TV's downstairs, you want to watch it in bed, which is upstairs, and all you have is a laptop, another laptop, a wireless network, video chat, and a brand new iSight. You won't believe me, but this wasn't some kind of "let's see what crazy things we can do" act. We were watching a programme which didn't end till late, and were both really tired. Then there's was a sudden "oh, but we can!" moment. Why not? And it's sweet: a piece of dedicated tech to do this would be a pain to set up, with tuning and what-not, but here I understand all the little pieces of tech individually, and the only hard bit is seeing that they can be hooked together (that, and moving the heavy coffee table). There's a lesson here about making possibilities, I'm sure.
It got me thinking too. A webcam is basically a light cable with a wormhole in the middle. I plugged it into the TV light at one end, and it came out, as light again, from a screen upstairs. But the connectors are leaky: it took a foot and a half of plain air to act as the plug downstairs, and it was quite fun to go down and play with the leaky abstraction layers a bit. After watching TV on the laptop for a while, full screen, you kind of forget about the stack of connections - you forget that you're watching through a conduit - so going downstairs and popping your head into the frame during the ads or talking into the microphone is funny. Reinscribing TV.