Is it possible to have a camera embedded in a view screen?

In Science Fiction shows, when you use your video link phone you look at the screen and to the other side it looks like they’re looking at the camera. And vice versa.

Is that possible now? If so, why is it not done? If not, why not? Will it ever be?

We’ve met and surpassed so much of what used to be science fiction - most of Star Trek is already standard - so I’m wondering when videophones and their seamless ability to both “be looked at” and “be viewed by” finally happens.

It would be possible to place a viewing screen in the middle of a parabolic reflector and still capture the whole image of the subject, who would appear to be looking directly at the screen.

One simple method would be to place a semi-reflective glass plate in front of the screen, tilted at a 45-degree angle. A camera above or to the side of the glass will capture your reflection in the glass. Of course it would be pretty annoying to have such a big piece of glass hanging off the screen.

I think the depth of focus and field of view would be so small as to be useless. No way you can capture the entire face that way.

I think the only unobtrusive way would be to make the screen porous, so to speak. You need to somehow embed light-emitting pixels (as opposed to light-absorbing pixels like LCD) on a transparent substrate. That way screen looks like a sieve from the back, and the camera can see through the screen. This would be easy with a large low-resolution screen, like the billboard-sized TV screens on downtown Tokyo buildings (and elsewhere, I’m sure). It would be a lot more difficult with a laptop-size screen.

You could have a projection screen of some sort that had a camera embedded in it.

We’ve met and surpassed so much of what used to be science fiction - most of Star Trek is already standard QUOTE]

Um, like what for example?

Hmm, that’s a better idea. But it’d have to be a screen with lots of holes, and shaped so that the light from the projector isn’t scattered into the camera. I guess you can use a fine mesh, with one side painted black (facing the camera) and the other side painted white.

Uh, the warp drive . . . the transporter . . .

Don’t tell me you still drive to work. :slight_smile:

Yeah, that statement caught my eye too.

I’ve seen several commercially available webcams that (being quite small) are mounted on an arm that attaches to the side of your computer monitorand places the camera in the center.

OK granted this isn’t really what you were asking, but it achieves the same result. Obviously it does obscure some small area of the screen, but you’d be suprised how your mind can just edit this out after continued usage.

Hmmm… what about four cameras; above, below, left and right of the screen, then some fancy image-manipulation software to interpolate the images? Sure, it wouldn’t be an actual picture, but I think it could be done nonetheless…


Don’t they make a flip phone that actually chirps when you open it? Coulda sworn I saw that somewhere.

Shhhh…he said “most of Star Trek is already standard,” I want to hear this too.

I don’t quite get the point of the OP: a small camera placed just above (or below) the screen will give an image that looks for all intents and purposes as if the person is looking right at the camera. What’s the problem?

The problem is that it doesn’t look quite right - our brains are very good at detecting eye contact and even videoconferencing with someone who uses a screen-top webcam, there’s the uneasy feeling that they’re not quite paying attention.

How about something like a pinhole camera mounted in the center of the screen. Use a flat panel screen with a small hole in the middle and you might not even notice it. I am not sure how the picture quality would be but I am sure they can improve it if they needed. Heck maybe multiple pinhole cameras with that image combining software that was mentioned above.
BTW if you call me right after I get out of the shower, it is you own danm fault :smiley:

Ignore my Star Trek comment, folks. I was referring to portable communicators, computers and disk technology, and smaller things of that nature. Not starships and phasers.

Anyways, back to my real OP, I thought maybe there’d be a way to have a camera that could be placed behind the screen which would be a sheet of frosted glass with the image projected on it.

Or failing that, a tiny enough camera that it’d be easily hidden in amongst LCD elements or whatever it is that makes up an LCD screen. But I think there’s a practical physical limit on camera sizes, isn’t there?

About 12 years ago or so, I helped on the translation of a research project on this issue (the camera / display one – not the how much of life is Star trek :wink: ) by a Japanese company. The details have long since left the old grey matter, but they were looking into several options. One potential solution involved having the camera behind the screen and rapidly alternate between transparency to allow the camera to accept light in and luminance to display the picture. The paper speculated that if done correctly, this would be an optimum solution. However, no actual research was being conducted at that time.
They pointed out that there is a limited range in degrees which people sense that the other person is “looking” directly at them. Putting a single camera next to (on the top, side or bottom of) the display won’t cut it.

Technology has changed in the last 12 years, but this is still not an easy problem.
LED screens, as suggested by **scr4 ** are problematic. The most obvious is having a low enough resolution to permit large enough holes would render the image unusable for VC purposes.

There are several problems with a pin-hole camera embedded within a display. The smaller the diameter of the camera, the lower its resolution. If the idea is to have a more natural feel for VCs, there is a limit to how small the lens can be. Practically, there would also be major manufacturing issues, with the whole thing having to be redesigned around the camera unit. Since something like this would only be used for VCs – no one wants to buy a 60" plasma with a hole in the center for their home theater – then sales would be limited. Currently there is enough of a market for this.

Software rendering also isn’t practical now. Even if it could be done, the cost and complexities of the workstations rule this out.