Improved video quality has helped webcams encroach on traditional video conferencing systems.New features such as automatic lighting controls, real-time enhancements (retouching, wrinkle smoothing and vertical stretch), automatic face tracking and autofocus, assist users by providing substantial ease-of-use, further increasing the popularity of webcams.With very-low-light capability, a few specific models of webcams are very popular to photograph the night sky by astronomers and astro photographers.
Video features, including faces, shapes, models and colors can be observed and tracked to produce a corresponding form of control.
For example, the position of a single light source can be tracked and used to emulate a mouse pointer, a head-mounted light would enable hands-free computing and would greatly improve computer accessibility.
Other popular uses include security surveillance, computer vision, video broadcasting, and for recording social videos.
The video streams provided by webcams can be used for a number of purposes, each using appropriate software: Most modern webcams are capable of capturing arterial pulse rate by the use of a simple algorithmic trick.
Unauthorized access of webcams can present significant privacy issues (see "Privacy" section below).
In December 2011, Russia announced that 290,000 Webcams would be installed in 90,000 polling stations to monitor the Russian presidential election, 2012.The term "webcam" (a clipped compound) may also be used in its original sense of a video camera connected to the Web continuously for an indefinite time, rather than for a particular session, generally supplying a view for anyone who visits its web page over the Internet.Some of them, for example, those used as online traffic cameras, are expensive, rugged professional video cameras.When sent to a remote location, the video stream may be saved, viewed or on sent there.Unlike an IP camera (which connects using Ethernet or Wi-Fi), a webcam is generally connected by a USB cable, or similar cable, or built into computer hardware, such as laptops.making them the lowest-cost form of videotelephony.