PLT Labs: Plantronics New Skunk Works

plantronics-voyager-legend-bluetooth-headset-300Plantronics has recently opened PLT Labs, a skunk works intended to help developers access the functions of the new generation of wearable technology. They propose to offer access to the new APIs exposed by prototype devices.

One of the more magical feature of the Plantronics Voyager Legend is the way it knows when you’re wearing it. If the headset is paired to my cell phone and I’m wearing the headset it will answer an incoming call.

If I’m not wearing the headset and I answer the phone using the handset itself, the headset knows to not involve itself in the media handling. It remains paired but switches the phone out of headset mode.

Such sensing capability arises from embedding positional sensing into the headset, along with enough smarts, establishing a more production relationship with the host device.

As sensors of all types get smaller, cheaper and more capable much more can be done to extend the utility of the devices that we carry every day. PLT Labs aims to connect with the developer community to find new applications for these ideas.

One of the ideas that they have recently floated is the ability to switch video camera shots based upon the orientation of the on-camera host.

They cite a newscast as the model for this idea. I find that the newscast analogy is a bit flawed. At very least they abuse some of the TV terminology.

A “Cameraman” is someone who handles a camera. They point the camera at the intended host or guest, given directions by the Director. You might think of a cameraman as the biological precursor of a remote controlled pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) mount.

In actual fact, a camera-person has greater control than a PTZ mount because they can also dolly or truck the camera around the studio. However, in large markets robotic camera systems have been replacing biological systems in that role for many years.

The camera selection that they refer to is source switching that’s done by the “Technical Director.” In smaller places the Director and the Technical Director may be the same person.

That person sits at a “production switcher” (aka “Vision Mixer” in the UK) that allows them to select which signal is being viewed by the audience. The various cameras will be amongst the options available. Remote feeds, video servers and graphics sources are also typical.

It’s very unlikely that anyone producing a newscast would ever use a Bluetooth cordless headset in the manner that they describe. While the analogy may not be especially effective, but the underlying ideas are nonetheless interesting.

I look forward to seeing what sort of ideas emerge from the developer community.