A robot is a computer system that is a stand-alone and can perform computations as well as physical acts, with one or more arms and joints to facilitate movement. A webcam is a camera capable of capturing still images and video and designed for use with a computer. Robotic webcams and static webcams are two types of tele-cam systems that allow transmission of images captured remotely through a computer, generally for viewing on a website. A robotic webcam is one that is capable of movement, such as panning, tilting, and zooming, as opposed to a static webcam, which stays as it was set.
A robotic webcam can be used for a variety of purposes. It can be used as a security surveillance tool or provide up-to-date information about weather, traffic, and roadway conditions. It can also provide educational opportunities, as when the webcam follows animals in their natural habitat or a construction site is shown over time; entertainment, as when sporting events are shown; or of cultural interest, when views of remote cities and countries are shown. Though most robotic webcams are functional, look like cameras and are mounted in a single location, the term robotic webcam can also refer to a webcam in the shape of a more or less humanoid robot capable of movement along a flat surface and streaming video to a PC.
The features a robotic webcam has can suit it for a particular purpose or make it adaptable. For security purposes, for example, panning, tilting, and zooming, as well as the range of each and the speed with which each of these functions can be accomplished, are important. High resolution is desirable, and sensitivity in low-light and/or infrared illumination for night functionality may also be important. The available presets, both for scheduling and for positioning can also contribute to its usefulness. Other important factors may include the available video compression, frame rate, resolutions, two-way audio capability, motion detection, installation configurations, object detection, and anti-tampering features.
Because the person observing a robotic webcam through the website can interact with it — panning, tilting, and zooming — the experience is quite different than watching a static webcam. This allows the viewer to follow a bird in flight or a sailboat passing by. It is important for viewers of a robotic webcam to realize that even the most carefully situated webcam may not always have the object in view: returning to the website every once in awhile may yield results that are not necessarily available upon first visit.