Ode to Food Cam

I have seen the future, and it is food cam.  It is, by far, the most important and revolutionary invention to come out of the Media Lab, and you can use it right now, right here, from where you are sitting.

Food cam is a webcam located on the 3rd floor of E15 — conveniently placed almost immediately outside of my lab.  It is mounted to the ceiling and is pointed down onto a counter, and can be viewed by anyone in the world.  People put free food underneath it whenever there are leftovers, which means that no food goes to waste in the entire lab! Together we consume it all!

Foodcam in an empty state

Foodcam in an empty state (it's on the top)

The best part about foodcam, aside from the free food it helps distribute, is the fact that there is a “dinner bell.”  Apparently not everyone looks at the live feed at all times (I do…).  For people like this, there’s a mailing list.  When someone places food under the foodcam they hit the button mounted to the wall, labeled “dinner bell”.  This causes the foodcam to take a picture of whatever is under it, and to email that picture to the rest of the lab.

Here are some recent “Come and get it!” emails:

Mmmm bagels with indian food!

Mmmm bagels with indian food!

And, my favorite announcement to date:

This announcement was made at 1:00 AM on a Saturday, so only the truly dedicated could reap the benefits (I was not dedicated enough)


  • Julia Ma

    does foodcam have a twitter account??

  • Jon Ferguson

    The “Dinner Bell” used to trigger a recoded voice shouting “Come and get it!” along with a servo motor shaking an actual bell. Alas, that part has been broken for years. You can still see the circuit with it’s speaker on the lego plate on the bulletin board just slightly down and to the left of the camera in Dan’s picture.

  • Jon Ferguson

    “does foodcam have a twitter account??”

    1,419 tweets from @medialabfoodcam:disqus from Mar 2008 until Nov 2010. Then Twitter changed the API authentication method and we stopped posting in protest (read as: “we’re too lazy to fix it”). It used to spout random quotes about food at the beginning, but later just got straight to the point.

    Someone could visualize the tweet timestamps across the calendar year to get a good picture of the Lab’s activity cycles.

  • Zengirl2

    Love your article and I may have to pursue the lab after all — esp. the food cam.