Like most people, we had a baby monitor. Actually, we only had one for Mack--when we lived in New York, I think we were actually able to hear Cal in the next room because that's apartment living for you--but it was just an audio monitor, really nothing but a glorified one-way walkie-talkie. But it worked OK and Mack is still alive, so...monitoring success, I guess. We still have the audio monitor, I just kind of stopped using it when I got sick of it basically being a broadcast of the kids arguing with each other in the basement of our old house. Just share the damn toys guys, dag.
With a fresh baby though, everyone gets a little more vigilant (read: paranoid), and though I like to think of myself as laid back, it crossed my mind that a video monitor might be nice for peace of mind, to be able to see the things that don't make any noise that a monitor can pick up (blanket over face, malevolent stuffed animals come to life, what have you). The only thing is, I can be kind of a skinflint about certain things, and it just seemed to me to be an awful lot of money to spend for something with somewhat limited lifespan and utility. And then I had an idea.
(Again, forgive me if this is too obvious, but I was proud of thinking of it, especially since it used equipment that I had already.)
What you will need:
- A transmitter (I used an old iPhone that I saved--I was on AT&T originally but reception was crap at my hospital and I was continually paranoid about missing calls, since that's that primary way we communicate between ORs and such. Anyway, my point being that when the new iPhone came out I upgraded and switched to Verizon--therefore I have a phone-plan-less iPhone kind of lying around that still works on our home WiFi. But really you can use anything with a wireless connection and a camera.)
- A receiver (you can use your phone, a 2nd or 3rd generation iPad, your desktop or laptop computer, whatever. I've been using my iPad because it's light and easy to carry from room to room, but again, it can be pretty much anything, it just has to have wireless connectivity and a camera.)
- Two Skype accounts (I just use mine and Joe's--the accounts are free to sign up for, and at bare bones, calls made over WiFi are free and unlimited so far as I can ascertain)
- Optional but helpful, depending on what you're using for your transmitter: a tripod, some creative velcro strapping, etcetera.
OK, so here's what you do.
STEP 1: Get a baby that you want to stare at.
STEP 2: Figure out where you want the monitor to be. You're somewhat limited by the fact that streaming a video call over Skype used a lot of juice, so I would choose a place near an outlet, but more importantly, find a place where you can fixate your transmitter, be it over a crib rail or on a nightstand or what have you. I apologize for the noise in these photos, but I was under low-light conditions for what I assume are obvious reasons.
(Here you see I have my old hobbled iPhone on a tripod and then Velcro-ed the tripod to the corner of the crib. I don't think you absolutely need a tripod, but I had one from a lens kit that I got for iPhone photography that I rarely use and it's pretty handy in general--it also allows you to put the transmitter on a flat surface instead if that's your preference. Just make modifications as you see fit--for example, if your baby is old enough to pull up and grab things, you probably don't want to have that phone just dangling there on the edge of the crib rail, but in that case, you know, put a table next to the crib out of reach or put the camera on a shelf, whatever.)
STEP 3: Make sure you have Skype downloaded on both transmitter and receiver devices. There's a free Skype app for iPhone/iPad/iPod on iTunes (iKnow, this is starting to seem like I work for Apple but I swear I don't, it's just what iHave in my house.) Log in with one account on the transmitter and the other account on the receiver. (I use Joe's account as the receiver, and my account is the transmitter.)
STEP 4: Use one end to call the other end. Doesn't matter which one initiates the call, just make sure you're placing a video call because that's the whole point. Accept the call on the other end.
STEP 5: If you're using something like an iPhone for your transmitter that has two cameras, make sure that you change the preferences such that you're using the "back facing camera" or whatever they call it--that's the higher quality camera anyway, it'll probably give you a better image, and that way you're not shining that screen in the baby's face.
STEP 6: And there's your call on the other end. Now continue to silently and creepily spy on your offspring.