It all started when she was searching for new apps in the App Store, and she noticed a little app called Live Cams [US$0.99, iTunes Link]. It sounded innocuous enough -- the app provides a way to search, browse, view, and in some cases, control live web cams all over the planet. At a price of less than a buck, Live Cams couldn't harm anything or anybody, could it? We were both sure that the developer, Barry Egerter, couldn't have any evil intentions, so she bought Live Cams and installed it on her iPhone.
That's when I noticed the changes coming over my wife. Rather than conversing over dinner, she would stare at her iPhone, occasionally touching the screen to switch to a new webcam or aim a camera at a new target. She'd interrupt my constant attempts at reaching a new high score in DoodleJump [iTunes Link] by waving her iPhone in front of my face, forcing me against my will to look at cute kittens cavorting on a cat cam in Tokyo. And when she started waking up at 3:30 AM to see what the "Really curvy road in Slovenia" looked like in daylight, I knew she had a problem.
Apparently, she's not alone. The app was at the top of the iTunes App Store charts last night, and she's somehow hooked me on Live Cams as well. After all, I can stop looking at the feed from the Shamu Cam any time I want to. Really.
Live Cams is a very addictive app. As my wife put it, "It gives you insight into what's going on all over the world right now." The idea behind the app is simple -- display the most recent feed from thousands of webcams around the world. Launching the app brings up a random 4 wide x 3 tall grid of webcam images, and swiping the screen to the left brings up another grid of images. Every time you bring up the random screen, there are another 108 images you can look at.
Tapping on any of the small displays fills the iPhone screen with the image, and there are buttons to let you control cameras (if they're controllable over the Internet), snap a picture of the screen, or put a webcam on your favorites list. My wife has well over 100 webcams on her favorites list, including several showing ponds in Africa where wildlife (lions, elephants, wildebeest...) can be spied from time to time.
There are some views that are spectacularly beautiful, such as the Brooklyn Bridge cam, the Eiffel Tower cam, and my personal favorite showing the hillside town of Positano in Italy. Some cams are simply for fun, including the delightful Cat Cam in Tokyo. And there several cams that don't deserve a second look, like the one showing the inside of a server room in Milan, Italy.
If you have your own private webcam, it can be added to the app as well. All you need is the IP address and port, user name, and password, and within seconds that cam appears on your iPhone screen. Hey, if I had the money to buy a bunch of webcams, I think I'd have 'em set up to watch my cat during the times we're not in the house.
Live Cams is just about the most fun you can have for a buck. And I'm willing to bet that my wife and I can get a group rate on an intervention for our Live Cams addiction... if we admit that we have a problem. Check out some of our favorite screen shots in the gallery below.