Can You See Me: An App to see if you’re visible

Do you ever wonder whether other people are getting a view of your forehead or ear when using videoconferencing platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams? Can You See Me, an app for Windows, will tell you where your face appears on screen as seen by other people.

Why install Can You See Me?

The use of video calling has boomed since lockdown, and even though things are almost back to normal, more people are using video calling and videoconferencing platforms than before the pandemic. But if you cannot see the screen, how do you know that other people haven’t got a close-up view of your chin or ear?
You may be in a scenario where being able to be seen by others is essential – for example, you may be participating in a video interview, or you may just want to show your face and let others know what you look like.
There is the option of asking other participants if they can see you, but Can You See Me gives you the independence to figure that out for yourself, and it may not always be appropriate to ask others, for example, if you are in a call with people you don’t really know.

Below, Richard, one of our Digital Enablement Officers, talks through the app: set-up, how to use, and other things to be aware of.

How did Can You See Me come to be?

Ben Mustill-Rose, the developer responsible for the app, commented about the origins:
“Can You See Me actually only exists because of a lucky coincidence. I was due to start a new job but was a little bit worried about how that was going to work in lockdown, so I decided to work on a little project to keep me distracted.
The original idea was for a wall-mountable, hands-free product recognition device, sort of like Seeing AI but without the phone. Unfortunately, I was struggling to get the barcode scanning part of the code to work, so I switched it to do face recognition instead to make it easier to test.
What you might call the first version of Can You See Me didn’t actually tell you where your face was – it would just beep whenever it saw one. I remember first running it on my laptop and hearing beeps when I looked at my webcam; it’s probably a bit of a stretch to call it a eureka moment, but I think that was the first time that I realised that something that did face recognition in an accessible way (not dissimilar to what the camera app on iOS does) might have some legs.”

Setting Up Can You See Me

Can You See Me is a Windows app and download is only available from the Can You See Me website, which also features instructions on how to use the app, system requirements, and much more.
After downloading the app, I clicked on the download to launch it. The app launches straight from download – there is no installation process.
NVDA jumped in at this point and gave me clear instructions on how to use the app.
When an app starts to give me instructions, my first thoughts are usually along the lines of: “I just want to use the app! Let me get on with it!” Ben had given this specific consideration and said regarding this matter:
“The aim of Can You See Me is to remove some of the barriers that blind people typically face when using their webcams in as frictionless a way as possible. For me, this means a handful of different things, but I’ve paid particular attention to a: trying to make sure you can jump in and use the program right away without having to read the manual and b: trying to make sure you can get the information you need as quickly as possible, so that you can in turn exit the tool as quickly as possible and get on with whatever it is that you actually want to be doing.
This is important no matter the situation but it’s critical in the context of employment: if Can You See Me was so hard to use that you arrived to a work meeting late and frustrated for example, clearly it would then overall be ineffective, even if technically speaking it still did what it was meant to.”
In my mind, he was successful. The instructions were clear and succinct enough that it did not feel like I was waiting to get on with it.

Using Can You See Me

To find out where my face was as seen by the camera on my laptop, all I needed to do is press the Enter key, and your selected screen reader will tell me.
Please note: at present, Can You See Me only works with JAWS, Dolphin Screen Reader, and NVDA.
It told me whether my face was in the middle, or whether my face was towards the top, bottom left, or right of the screen. Within seconds, I had been able to adjust my seating position and laptop position so that my face was in the centre of the screen. If I was too close, I was told that there was no face found and I knew I was too far away if I couldn’t reach the Enter key! If no face is detected, Can You See Me made a couple of suggestions about what to try.
You can also obtain a more precise description of where your face is – to do this, simply press the letter d.
You can also use the app to take a selfie – to do this, press p.
To close the app, press Escape. It is important to note that you need to press Escape. Pressing Alt+F4, the command typically used to close apps, only minimizes it.

Other Things To Be Aware Of

As you are downloading an App that is not from the Windows App Store, it is likely that Windows Defender will warn you and try to prevent launching Can You See Me.
I would not normally recommend overriding this unless you are absolutely sure that what you are launching does not contain malicious software. I am able to run programs in a safe area on my computer so that even if it was malicious code, it would not be able to do any harm.
The author has made the code available to inspect if you want to check.
The other thing to be aware of is that at the time of trying, the app was not compatible with Windows Narrator. The developer has taken this on board and is looking into the issue.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, this small app solves the issue that it was designed to solve in a very straightforward, no-nonsense way. Within seconds, you can position yourself and your webcam so that others in the video meeting will be able to see your face in the correct screen position. Those who use Narrator may need to wait, or alternatively download NVDA, which is free.

If you would like to watch Can You See Me in action, watch the video featuring Mark Belcher, our Community Services Development Manager (Digital), as he puts the app to the test.

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