The ultimate goal of this project was to have something that looks and feels like a regular teddy bear, but can be plugged into the computer (via usb) and used as a video and audio input without any degradation in quality. I think I achieved these goals fairly well, although next time I would use a higher quality camera.
Step 1: Acquire a Stuffed Bear and Camera
There are several considerations to keep in mind when choosing these parts. First of all, the bear has to be big enough to comfortably fit the camera inside without altering its shape. Since I chose to mount the camera with it looking out through one of its eyes, a large head was necessary. The webcam I chose is fairly small, so it fits nicely.
Another thing to note is the compatibility of the webcam with the end user's operating system. If windows is being used it is typically not a problem, but there are certain webcams which do not have supported drivers for Linux, making them more difficult to work with.
Cams also vary in picture quality. The one I ended up using could use improvement in this department, but I was trying to keep the component cost low. The components of this project were purchased at the local walmart for not more than $50 or so.
Step 2: De-brain the Bear
Once you have a hole in the back of the head/neck, pull out all the stuffing from the head, and any other parts which make working with the bear difficult. Do not throw this away, as it will be going back in once the camera is attached inside. You need to be able to easily access the eye (or whatever part the camera will be looking through).
Step 3: Find and Remove the Eye
I think some stuffed animals have the eyes glued directly to the fabric at the front of the head. If you have one of these you will have an additional step of making a hole in the fabric for the camera to look through.
Now that the eye is out, we can modify it so that the camera can look through it.
Step 4: Modify the Eye and Attach It to the Camera
The stem of the eye was cut off using a hack saw, and then a hole was drilled using a hand drill. It is about 5 or 6mm (1/4") in diameter, but the size will be depended on how close you can mount the camera to the eye, and its viewing angle. The hole should be big enough so that the eye does not obscure a significant amount of the picture. In my finished bear there is some obscuration around the corners.
Since the hole is being drilled in a translucent cast plastic, the inside of the hole will be rough and light coloured. This creates a problem since the light reflecting off the inside of the eye creates a halo effect in the camera which spoils the image. The inside of the eye has to be smoothed and painted black. I used mat-black model paint for this step.
With the eye prepared, pop the front cover off the camera (usually it is just held on by tabs, but may be glued) and glue the eye as close to the lens as possible using model glue (plastic cement). You may have to scratch the paint off the camera where you are gluing to make it stick. Be careful not to get any glue on the lens, and position the eye so that the lens is centered in the hole!
Step 5: Glue the Camera Inside the Bear
In order for the glue to stick to the camera I scraped some paint off the front of the camera. I then glued around the eye hole in the fabric. When you do this, make sure you glue the fabric down so that only the fur is visible around the eye, not the fabric itself. The camera should be positioned so that it is looking straight out, and the eyes are symmetrical (this is the trial and error part). It helps if you have the camera plugged into a computer so you can see how the video looks before you glue it down.
If the fur is rather long on your bear of choice, as it was on mine, then some trimming around the eye will be required so that it does not get into the picture. Also note that I removed as much of the camera casing as I could get away with to make it less bulky. This makes it easier to position without creating bulges in the bear.
Step 6: Make and Attach a Cord Pouch
You can make a rectangular pouch out of some spare cloth that you have lying about by cutting out a rectangular piece, folding it over, and sewing up two sides. I'm not going to go into detail about how to sew, as I'm not an expert at it.
Leave the cord hanging out of the bear while you sew the opening of the pouch to the edges of the hole you created earlier. Be sure to put the stuffing you took out earlier back into the bear before you completely close up the hole!
The loose cable can now be stuffed into the pouch when not in use. It is probably a good idea to sew part of the cable to the fabric of the bear so that pulling on it does not pull out the camera (strain relief).
Step 7: Mail the Bear
I recommend a fairly sturdy box for mailing it, as this construction is probably not durable enough to withstand the abuse of the postal system on its own.
Thanks for viewing my first instructable, and enjoy the video chats with your significant other!