Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Specialty webcams

The most common use for a webcam is to see the person you are calling. But there are other webcams that have more specialized missions. Our favorite is the ProScope USB microscope, available for both PC and Mac platforms. After you download and install the proper drivers that come with this device, it works just like a webcam, with a little twist. The microscope can, of course, take extreme close-ups of objects and materials. Some microscopes come with a variety of lenses to increase the power of the “macro” photographic image. There is even a high-res version of the scope (find out more at www.proscopehr.com/index.html).
Why would you want to use a USB microscope? Perhaps you are a coin and would like to make some trades, purchases, or sales within your Skype coin club. Connect the microscope, turn on videoconferencing, and put your wares on display. The same can be done for other collections; obsidian arrowheads, cameo jewelry, scrimshaw art, and postage stamps are just a sample of collectibles you can show in detail over Skype using a USB microscope.

Another use for a USB microscope is the transmission of live video streaming in field research. If you are a biology teacher, equip your students with a laptop, a USB microscope, and an assignment to capture images of moss samples from a local park. The USB microscope has a built-in light source that will illuminate a bit of moss on a rock or tree bark. Students in other schools anywhere in the world can receive the video of local flora and add it to a database of moss samples for research projects. Transmitting live video from the field is not only inspiring for students and teachers alike but also arms the students of today with tools for thinking about how to design the laboratories of tomorrow. Skype videoconferencing combined with USB microscopy makes it possible to routinely use field microscopes in disciplines such as forensics, and teams of people spread over thousands of miles can collaboratively engage in problem solving in real time.

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