It’s a common, albeit frustrating, scenario: Remote employees are invited to a company conference call only to feel disconnected from their co-workers because they can’t hear or see them very well. An employee may begin to feel guilty for living so far away and other employees are frustrated by their inability to fully participate in the meeting — all because the experience of video conferencing leaves the remote employee feeling more like a fly on the wall versus actually “being” there. Inspired by this scenario, the founders of Owl Labs are debuting an audiovisual tool that will reinvent the meeting room experience. Meet the Meeting Owl.
Powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 Mobile Platform, the Meeting Owl bridges remote employees with their offices and coworkers. Not only is the 11-inch meeting machine shaped like the feathered fowl it’s named for, it also mimics its famous head-turning abilities in its movement. Equipped with 360-degree fish-eye lenses, speakers, and microphones, the Meeting Owl is designed to pick up visuals and sound anywhere in the conference room. No more crowding around the computer screen to make sure you’re seen; each employee is made to feel integral to a meeting.
In our recent chat with Owl Labs CTO Mark Schnittman, he commented: “The Meeting Owl has a really powerful processor, it’s connected to the internet, and it has high resolution sensors in the microphones and camera. If you’re looking at it as a robot, there are a lot of ways you can combine its features to create new device features.”
Remote employees see a panoramic view of the room and close-ups of each person, a unique video output that’s actually cut and pasted from one 360-degree image captured from the Meeting Owl’s camera. With every frame, the Owl dynamically chooses where to pull its images, creates a collage, and sends it to the host computer. And to the host, the Meeting Owl is simply a USB camera, so it’s compatible with any conference program.
“We didn’t want to be locked into a particular communication system because businesses usually use more than one,” said Schnittman. “USB can juggle all of them, but in order for that to work, the Owl needs to have the power to do everything. And that’s how we ended up with the Snapdragon processor.”
When engineering the Meeting Owl, the Owl Labs team chose the Snapdragon 410 platform for three reasons: price, form factor, and power. With an ideal price point for mass production, the mobile platform was small, easy to customize, and adaptable to the Meeting Owl’s compact design (a mere 2.65 pounds). The team trusted that the Snapdragon 410 would be robust enough to support high CPU and GPU loads for extended periods of time.
“Cell phones definitely use big loads in the processor, but tend to do so in bursts. We need it to run for hours and hours, with every component running full steam,” Schnittman said. “We’re pushing the processor in ways Qualcomm Technologies probably never imagined but certainly prepared for.”
Computer vision also plays a major role in the Meeting Owl’s design. The device is able to discern which objects in the room are people and automatically focuses on the person speaking. The longer Meeting Owl is in a meeting, the better acquainted it gets to the surrounding objects. Monthly software updates from Owl Labs, delivered via Wi-Fi, will improve the device’s computer vision capabilities by supporting faster processing speeds.
Previously, outfitting a conference room with features similar to those of the Meeting Owl could come with a hefty price tag. You need to outfit a room with cameras, speakers, and microphones, and let’s not forget the computer needed to process multiple video streams. All of this can add up to thousands of dollars. With the easy to set up, plug-and-play Meeting Owl, the cost for quality audiovisual technology is reduced to $799.
As Schnittman wrote in a recent Medium post, “Our mission is to help remote participants truly feel included during team meetings because, unfortunately, more often than not they don’t.”
The Meeting Owl is available now. Visit the Owl Labs page to learn more and order this innovative video conferencing device. You can also attend a demo to experience the Meeting Owl first hand starting today.