Review: Aver Information VC520 All-in-One USB Conference Camera System – Part 2

I presume you recall where left off in this little adventure. I had just finished my initial allocation of 1000 words in a general description of the AVER Information VC520. Let that be the foundation upon which you add the following observations of its use. And use it I did.

Unboxing & Installation

Once unboxed and setup I connected the VC520 to my desktop computer. As a generic UVC device there was no device specific driver to install, although I did install the PTZ remote application and update utility.

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ClearOne Launches UNITE PTZ Camera with USB 3.0 & DVI Connectivity

ClearOne-UNITE-100-PTZ-Camera-300pxA year ago I was looking around for signs of webcams that leveraged the faster USB 3.0 connection to a host computer. They seemed to be strange and rare items at the time. We had Vaddio appear on VUC472 to present their Huddlestation product. They hinted at a coming wave of USB 3.0 cameras, expecting to see them in the summer of 2014.

It wasn’t until Q4 that I found a USB 3.0 capable webcam-ish thing trumpeted as available. In a press release issued December 9, 2014 ClearOne announced that its new Unite 100 PTZ camera was shipping.

I say webcam-ish as the UNITE 100 isn’t directly comparable to a common webcam, like my tiny-but-trusty Logitech C920. With a 12x optical zoom lens and PTZ mount, it’s something more akin to the CC3000e. In fact, it’s probably better.

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A Challenge: WebRTC Screen Sharing v2

screenshare-composite-example2-300pxIt’s been a year or more that tools like Google’s Hangouts have supported the ability to share a host computer screen with the viewing audience. This was rightfully heralded as “a very good thing indeed.” However, it’s current incarnation is considerably less than ideal and seems to be stalled. I’d like to lay out a challenge to see if anyone is interested into taking this to the next level, which is something that we’ve tried to do with a few VUC calls earlier this year.

Here’s the fundamental problem; people use screen sharing to give demos of software and share documents, which includes giving presentations a la PowerPoint, Keynote, etc. Currently, Hangouts, Jitsi Video Bridge and the like show either the screen share or the camera. In the case of slide presentations there can be very little activity in view as the presenter speaks to the points shown on the current slide. This creates less than compelling visuals.

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PTZ Control For the Logitech BCC950 Conference Cam

Logitech-Conference-cam-BCC950The code, the code, my kingdom for the code!” – Richard III

My apologies to Will Shakespeare but I find myself thinking this way about Logitech’s BCC950 Conference Cam. You may remember it from when it was featured in a VUC session back in November of 2012. At that time the BCC950 was newly released but I managed to buy one to have some experience with it for the occasion of their appearance.

Since then it’s been a fixture on my desk. in fact, I find a lot to like about the BCC950. It’s long stem puts the camera at a nice height so that it’s gaze is not looking up or down at me. In that regard it’s actually better than the Logitech C920 webcam sitting on top of my monitor, although both create fine quality video streams for UC or vodcasting applications.

What it lacked was any kind of integration of its pan, tilt, zoom control with application code for any common soft client. I’m told that one of the enterprise video conference clients (Vidyo?) has included far-end camera control that was aware of the BCC950.

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PanaCast: A Potentially Interesting Twist On A Conference Camera

Altia-systems-panacast.jpgPanaCast is a new camera from startup Altia Systems. Newly funded via Kickstarter the company will soon be shipping the camera, which is a curious device aimed a providing a panoramic real-time video stream for conferencing purposes.

The device itself costs $599 and promises to provide a 200 degree field of view delivered to an iOS or Android application. They also have Mac and Windows desktop support.

The sample videos that the company offers are interesting. They point to some likely use cases, highlighting educational/presentation situations.

The web site is woefully short in technical details. However, a FAQ notes that the worst case bandwidth requirement is around 1.5 Mbps, which is about what I’d expect from a single H.264 stream.

Another FAQ quotes the image resolution as 2680 x 540 pixels at up to 60 frames per second. This suggests that the six embedded image sensors are actually typical of traditional SD video cameras. Their output being stitched together to create the panorama.

The Panacast camera connects directly to a  wired network. It also has a USB connector for the purposes of firmware updates. There is some suggestion that in the future the USB port may be used to support 3/4G wireless connectivity.

I look forward to news of this device as it starts to ship and land in the hands of real users. I suspect that it will quickly come to be used in some novel and interesting ways.