You know what could make 360-degree conferencing cams more interesting? Make them look like owls.
Owl Labs, a startup that's backed by Playground Ventures, the firm from Andy Rubin, who is the creator of Android, has been working on a standalone video conferencing device since at least 2015. That device, called Owl, is now available for purchase. It's a cylinder-shaped, fabric-covered, Wi-Fi-enabled robotic video camera with two round LED indicator lights and a single fish-eye lens.
And, yes, it looks like an owl. It can recognise and focus on whoever is speaker and works with all sorts of video conferencing services, including Skype. Its ability to automatically shift eliminates the need for remote control or manual turning of the camera. Everything is captured in 720p HD from the fish-eye lens at the top. There's also an eight-microphone array at the top and built-in speakers.
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It's powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 410 processor and runs a forked version of Android. And it connects to a computer or monitor via USB. It has much of the tech needed to become a full-fledged assistant like Amazon Echo, but for right now, it's only offering video conferencing capabilities. You can't use it to control the lights with your voice or take notes. But that doesn't mean it can't evolve.
The Owl works with a mobile app that enables remote control of the camera. Owl Labs is also planning smart meeting analytics software and has told Venture Beat and The Verge that it will one day push software updates with features, though for right now, it's interested in getting user feedback. Once it better understands how consumers use the device, it may develop new features down the road.
The Owl camera is now available for $799. There's no word yet on UK pricing or availability.