Speaker Bar Video Conferencing

A new product was announced recently. It's a speaker bar with a video conferencing camera in the middle of it. It's not the first one of this type as I can name four different models off the top of my head. I don't care for this genre of product. They are ugly. It seems as if a lot of us aren't even trying to make decent looking products anymore. I've spent the better part of twenty years designing things for conference rooms that aren't meant to be seen but if you do see them you (hopefully) don't think they are ugly. These fly in the face of that. Big and beautiful we can deal with, small and ugly may be ok in certain circumstances but big and ugly is unacceptable.

These aren't much different in practicality than the "soda cracker" video conferencing systems that David Danto wrote about a couple of years ago. At the very least though, this new breed of product has two things going for it over the old style he talked about: #1 zoom-able cameras and #2 USB connectivity for use with any soft codec. The downside is the addition of speakers makes the product that much bigger.

No one wants to see conference room technology. We want to see the result of such technology, but not the tech itself (if that's not the case why are companies making bezel-less displays for example?). Explain to me why such a large camera/apparatus exists. We have the technology and capability to make small cameras that are feature rich, yet we connect them to speaker bars?

Is it market segment? These things are marketed to huddle/small spaces. With the product being so large in such a small space, their visual impact is magnified. They can only go above or below a single display creating problems with eye contact as well. Don't dare attempt to put one of these between two displays. With many other options out there, I don't think the market is in need of such a product.

Is it the feature set? There are speakers (albeit admittedly poor sounding ones) in most displays themselves residing mere inches away from the speaker bar's intended location. We're talking voice here and no one will be listening to music through them so great audio quality isn't paramount. I will admit that having a microphone right where your mouth may be aiming (some of the time) is a good thing though. Again, there are better options than this.

Price and Convenience? For former, no. The latter, I can give that one to you.

We were heading the right direction over the past year or two with smaller cameras. Now, vendors are  playing copycat (as they usually do) with speaker bars instead of creating something with a smaller form factor that's appropriate in smaller rooms. This logic defies me. Cameras absolutely have an affect on the people in the room. Luckily, we are finally getting away from analog tracking cameras that #1 don't work and #2 annoy most people, but putting video enabled speaker bars in its place seems like a regression to me.

Agree/disagree? I welcome your feedback here or on Twitter.

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