Freestanding and Dell laptop monitors ten years old are probably not that rare in lawyers’ offices. If I am correct they should be checked for that fun but dreaded webcam filter which so embarassed attorney Rod Ponton and his secretary during his virtual court hearing, until the funny side became apparent.
Zoom court hearings are becoming the default. The coronavirus has caused this but they’ll be far more commonplace in the future as they are more efficient for those pre-trail hearings in criminal matters and directions hearings in civil matters (short hearings to obtain a judges directions on how the case should proceed).
There was great hilarity over attorney Rod Ponton’s white kitten filter which mysteriously appeared at a virtual court hearing last Tuesday in Texas, USA. The video was released by the judge for educational and entertainmet purposes and it went viral. It has been viewed over 10 million times as at the date of this post. The caption reads “…virtual court proceedings in the 394th Judicial District Court of Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio Counties, Judge Roy Ferguson presiding…”
The more serious question is how did it happen, and I can rely on the excellent work of Rachel Metz of CNN Business for digging around and getting to the bottom of it. It was fun but US attorneys don’t really want to conduct an entire virtual hearing as a cute but sad Scottish Fold kitten.
Metz was able to talk to Ponton who said that before the hearing he came across as himself on Zoom. It was when the hearing started that the kitten appeared. Ponton had to use his secretary’s ten-year-old Dell desktop computer at an office in Predidio, Texas rather than his own in the main office.
His secretary’s computer came with a Dell monitor with a buit-in webcam. The Dell webcam came with software. It was this software that created the kitten filter apparently.
The webcam software appears to have been Live! Cam Avatar. The user can select their favorite filter to disguise themselves. The filter uses intelligent face tracking to allow the kitten to sync with the mouth of the person when he or she speaks. I think this is what is called ‘firmware’ – software built-in to the webcam hardware.
Ponton could not find the source of the filter at the time and still can’t. It turned itself off after 42 seconds thankfully. It took Thomas Smith the CEO of A1 photography business Gado to know about it and recreate it. He has an old Dell laptop with webcam. It seems the firmware is built-in to Dell laptops as well.
You can probably uninstall the sofrware using the Windows control panel or disable it. Although Ponton used Windows to search for the software and it struggled to find it! If he does find it he said he plans to use it again! Just not in a virtual court hearing. I think he could make a funny cat video for YouTube and make some advertising money!
Ponton’s secretary is embarassed by the event. She shouldn’t be because it has made Ponton famous (almost). I am sure it has done no harm to his reputation as he has made fun of it. Ponton said that his secretary wants to hide under the bed like a cat.
So this webcam software is old but it works with modern Zoom software I guess. It appears to run on Windows 7 but may also run on more up to date operating software. Currently there is a macabre video on YouTube which shows the exact same filter in use. It is dated Feb 9th 2010, a good ten years old. It has only been viewed a meagre 6,800 times. It is called “Live! Cam Socialize HD (Kitten: Avatar With Emotions)”.
Please note that over time these videos may stop working. I have no control over this. If it has happened I am sorry.