A 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.
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.
Not long a reader posed this question about USB speakerphone devices;
“Hi Michael – I read your blog article about chromebox for meetings. I’m in the UK and I think there will be good takeup when its launched here but I’m concerned about sound quality mic and speakers in untreated rooms. Have you found any USB table top devices matrix mics with high quality speaker that could be integrated at proportionate cost? – Thanks, John”
It’s an interesting question. As I was answering him via IM it occurred to me that the answer might be worth sharing.
There are a lot of USB attached speakerphones available. I’ve tried quite a number over the years. Some are good. Some are cheap. As you can imagine, rarely are the good ones cheap. The major difference to be considered is whether the device undre consideration is intended for use by an individual or a small group.
This is a semi-rant on a somewhat common theme for me, getting the best audio quality. In pondering these two new video calling devices from Tely Labs and Biscotti one thing stands out as unfortunate…they both rely exclusively upon an array of microphones built into their respective device. I find this to be short-sighted and unnecessarily inflexible.
At both ends of the call there’s considerable room tone. In particular you can clearly hear that the conference room at Tely Labs is a simple drywall box. It sounds boomy and reverberant.
As I have described elsewhere, I find that the use of a speakerphone is always a last resort. It’s really only appropriate when you have a group of people collected for a call. To use a speakerphone when the call is just on-to-one is to permit the ambient noise and nature of the room to have undue influence in the audio quality.
In the course of announcing it’s new Bria iPad EditionCounterPath recently made some very bold claims. They claim that within their own company Bria iPad Edition has essentially replaced desktop phones. They further claim it has overtaken their use of dedicated conference phones in meeting rooms. Citing their own internal experience they have brashly declared that the death of the desk phone is upon us.
One would expect a leading maker of soft phones to be less than enthusiastic about the future of hard phones. There is a very clear uptick in the use of soft phones, inspired by Skype at first, but then accelerated by UC clients from companies like Avaya, Mitel and even Microsoft.
Be that as it may, there remain tens of millions of IP phones on desktops around the globe. Clearly, the death of the category has not been universally observed. I hear no weeping from the various Polycom devices that litter my working life.
However, it has been said that the future is already here, just not yet evenly distributed. Perhaps I simply hold a position later on the curve of this trend?
Last Fall I bought a ClearOne Chat 160 USB attached conference audio device. It was purchased to make it easier for Tim Panton to gather the Asterisk Dev crowd to join the VUC call following Astricon 2010. In that role it seemed at least adequate, much better than what we used at Astricon 2009.
Since then the ClearOne Chat 160 has loitered about my office seeing only occasional use. This past week I shipped it to Milwaukee with some Pixel Power equipment that I was supposed to demonstrate. This demo was to be a little unusual in that I wasn’t going to Milwaukee myself.
The plans was that I was to give the demo remotely. Our salesman would bring the equipment in to the prospects site, get it setup and online. I would be given access using GotoMeeting. For a portion of the demo I’d drive the gear from my office in Houston. For a second portion I’d show them the desktop of the system that I was using, which gave an example of how the product they were evaluating would be integrated into their facility.
Some of what they saw would be local to them, providing real HD video output to a proper HD monitor. Locally they would be able to assess the output quality and the basic performance of the hardware. The systems that they viewed remotely would serve as an example of the newsroom workflow tools that we provider, giving them a view of the news dept role in preparing graphics for each newscast.
At lasts years visit to Astricon it became clear that it would be good to “tool up” for having conference calls at remote locations. As I described previously, the ClearOne Chat 50 USB speakerphone that I had brought along was not really adequate to the task of a conference call with a number of people scattered around a hotel room.
I can’t fault the device as it, like most USB attached speakerphones, are intended as personal audio devices, to be used by an individual at a desk. It’s microphone pickup pattern describes a 120 degree arc across the front of the device. That means that fully two thirds of the room are off-mic and won’t be heard very well.