A new research tool: Mr. Lee's CatCam

What is it?
The CatCam is a small, lightweight digital camera that takes pictures automatically. You can adjust the interval time of the camera. It is originally a device to spy on your cat or other animals. By hanging the camera around the neck of your pet you can see what he has been doing all day (or night) long. We thought we could use this device to “spy” on humans too! It is a helpful tool to get an accurate insight in peoples activities and lives.

Mr. Lee's CatCam Mr. Lee's CatCam

When to use it?
When you are looking for first-hand insight in the lives of your customer, without interference of the researcher, the catcam is a good and reliable tool. We used the CatCam to get an overall insight in the lives of a few participants. For example, we were looking how often and how long a person was physically moving and where they where going.

A few more examples on what you can use the CatCam for:

  • What route is someone taking in the supermarket?
  • For how long is someone using the computer and what websites does he actually visit?
  • How is a customer welcomed when entering a store or office?

What does it look like?

The camera comes with a sheer plastic cover to protect it. When you ask people to wear it, you might want to decorate the cover. For example, you can decorate the cover in the same color as the shirt the participant is wearing to camouflage the camera. You can also turn the camera into a piece of jewelry.

catcam reeks1


  • The participants will act more natural because there is no stranger (= the researcher) near them.
  • Because of the interval time, you can get accurate info on how long some activities take.
  • On the pictures you can see important aspects that the participant doesn’t notice and therefore cannot tell you about.

There are some practical problems we found while using the CatCam:

  • Adjusting the interval time is difficult, we couldn’t adjust one of our catcams at all.
  • The quality of the pictures is not very good, but sufficient. The pictures taken outside are better then the ones taken indoors.


  • We used fabric to decorate the cover, but that wasn’t long-lasting. Maybe you can use plastic. Do you know a good way to decorate the cover?
  • Make sure you test every CatCam before handing it over to the participant.
  • Plan an appointment to discuss the pictures with the participant; often explanation is needed and good discussions give deeper insights in the ‘photographer’s’ life.

catcam reeks2

We thought it was interesting and helpful to use the CatCam as a research tool. People we asked to wear the CatCam were pleasantly surprised by the device.

Will you be using the CatCam for your (research) project? We would love to hear about your experiences!

For more information on the CatCam visit Mr. Lee online.

Marc Fonteijn

Marc Fonteijn

Als medeoprichter van 31Volts houdt Marc zich bezig met het verleggen van grenzen binnen service innovatie. Marc helpt organisaties om waarde te creëren voor hun klanten door middel van design.

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  • Comment by Desirae

    I have used the cat cam on my cat more than 10 times and I have not had it work once. It either only records for two minutes or doesn’t record at all. I was so excited to get it, but every time I try it I just get very angry cause it doesn’t work!

31Volts [Service Design]