There are a surprising number of options out there for video conferencing. Services such as Google Hangouts and Skype for Business have enabled professionals to hold remote meetings and collaborate with their colleagues without the need for a proper “face-to-face” meeting.
These services work best when coupled with some specialist equipment. They are particularly useful if you need the people involved in the remote conference to have a full view of the meeting as if they were there.
Here are 8 of the lesser-known video conferencing options for work that offer that kind of broad perspective.
1. 360 Meeting Owl Camera from Owl Labs
With a cute little Meeting Owl in your conference room, everyone will be able to see who is speaking and look them in the eye. A Meeting Owl is just as versatile as a regular owl, if not more so. They don’t have to turn their heads a full 360-degrees. Instead, they use a unique lens to achieve an entire 360-degree field of view. It also comes with eight built-in microphones so that people up to 2 meters away can be heard no matter where they are in the room.
The Meeting Owl is built with software that automatically zooms in on the person speaking when they are talking. It can also highlight up to three of the most recent speakers in the video feed, so viewers know who was speaking. It’s super simple to use and set up. Just connect it up to the power supply and connect it to a computer or laptop and use it with Google Hangouts, Slack, GoToMeeting, Skype for Business, or any other conferencing service. There is a detailed review of 360 Meeting Owl Device here.
2. VSN Mobil – V.360
The V.360 was originally developed to be used as an action optical instrument. It fits as well on a surfboard as it does on a table in a conference room. It sits on an adjustable tripod and can be connected to computers directly through a USB cable. Just plug it to a laptop running conferencing software, and it’s good to go.
The VSN uses a reflector instead of a lens. It can create 6480×1080 panoramic images using its camera. If you have to conduct an informal meeting, then the fact this optical instrument is suitable for action could work to your advantage; the camera is IP670 rated, meaning that it is waterproof up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. It can deal with any rain or other environmental issues.
3. Polycom CX5100 and CX5500
The CX5100 from Polycom is a full 360-degree optical instrument and a conferencing hub that works excellent. It needs to be connected to a USB port to work, of course, as the other cameras. If you’ve got a little extra money in the budget and want a more advanced model, then pick up the CX5500.
These cameras are optimized for use with Skype for Business in particular. They are still fully compatible with other software, though, including Lync and SIP BBX. They come with active speaker detection and a microphone range good for up to 6 meters. Ideal for meetings in large rooms with a lot of people.
4. Google Hangouts Meet Hardware with Huddly Camera
When Google upgraded their Hangouts conferencing app to the enterprise version used by businesses today – Hangouts Meet – they decided that the system needed some additional hardware and so created this video conferencing device. The device has four components in all; a touchscreen controller, a speaker mic system, an ASUS Chromebox running Chrome OS, and – of course – an optical instrument.
It’s possible to connect and daisy-chain several other speaker mics to cover a long table. The optical instrument can detect and focus on participants and speakers as needed. It crops the image and zooms in on them as appropriate to make them the center of attention. The hardware can be purchased as a full kit from Google, or you can buy it separately. The optical instrument itself has a 16-megapixel sensor, a 150 degrees field of view, and connects to computers using a USB port.
While designed and developed by Google for Google, it works perfectly with Skype for Business and other conferencing apps. Don’t think you need to use Google Hangouts Meet to use the hardware.
5. Logitech ConferenceCam Connect
The ConferenceCam from Logitech offers a portable conferencing optical instrument. It includes a built-in Bluetooth speakerphone that lets you use it from a distance, even outside of the conferencing room. The camera consists of a full 90-degree field of view with tilt and pan features, as well as up to 4-times zoom. It’s best used for conferences with up to six people.
The Connect is connected to computers through USB, and it works with Windows, Mac, and Chromebooks computers. It can be used with a range of conferencing applications, including Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, Fuze, Zoom, Broadsoft, and more.
6. PanaCast 2 by Altia Systems
The PanaCast 2 is an upgraded version of the original PanaCast by Altia Systems-. The updated version has the latest intelligent zoom built-in. While other cameras sell themselves on being able to focus on the current speaker, this camera can also zoom out to show everyone in the meeting. That means that anyone viewing will always know who is speaking – and who was speaking.
This 4K panoramic camera connects via USB and is compatible with Skype for Business, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and more. It comes with all the drivers built-in, so it shouldn’t need anything else. Just plug it in and let it set itself up, and you’re good to go. The “camera” is three cameras built together and connected to create a 180-degree field of view. Users can switch to individual cameras or combine them as they wish.
7. HuddleCamHD GO
The GO by HuddleCamHD is the most portable conferencing optical instrument the company has ever produced. The device itself is around 235mm tall. It is a slim square shape that is small enough to fit into a laptop bag or backpack without a problem.
Able to be plugged into a PC, Mac, or Chromebook via USB, the GO provides viewers with a 110-degree 1080p video, along with a “360-degree speakerphone” that has a range of up to 3 meters. The camera comes with a standard 1.5m cable and a 1.8-meter extension for more extended tables.
8. Cisco Systems Spark Room Kit and Room Kit Plus
The Cisco Spark Room Kit fits neatly on top of a flat-screen display. It houses a camera, speakers, microphones, and a codec that makes it suitable for meetings with up to seven people. The camera is designed to connect and communicate with other Cisco Spark systems for added versatility.
The camera can zoom out to show off everyone in the room and zoom in on speakers automatically. It could even tell you when the time has come to move on to larger premises as it offers analytics, including the number of people attending each meeting. For added versatility and power, go for Room Kit Plus, which features more cameras and can handle conferences of up to 14 people.
Any of these tools will be a great addition to your meeting or conference. Make remote viewers feel like they are part of the action by putting them directly in the middle of it with an excellent conferencing camera and microphone system.