THERE’S BEEN A SEISMIC SHIFT in how business teams, in both large and small companies, conduct meetings. Even after the COVID-19 crisis is over, remote employees will account for account for a significant portion of workers, greatly increasing the need to conduct meetings via audio and video teleconferencing. At the same time, more businesses are eschewing traditional large conference rooms in favor of “huddle rooms,” smaller meeting spaces with specialized hardware for audio and videoconferencing.
Anyone who’s watched Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace has seen the end goal of teleconferencing, but we’re a long way off from projecting holograms of people working from remote locations into a conference room seat. Thankfully, a lack of holograms doesn’t equal a lack of ingenuity, as hardware makers are constantly devising new solutions to improve virtual meetings. Jabra, for instance, known for audio products like office and Bluetooth headsets, is looking to shake up the video side of conferencing with the PanaCast, claimed to be the world’s first intelligent 180-degree panoramic plug-and-play video solution.
The huddle room is not a new concept by any means, but with the traditional camera/screen setup, extra floor space is needed to position the camera far enough from the table to get everyone in the frame. Jabra says that PanaCast’s 180-degree camera lets you place a table directly against the wall and still include everyone in view, saving organizations money by allowing them to host meetings effectively in smaller rooms.
I’ve gotten the opportunity to play with several dedicated conferencing solutions over the years, many of them large and bulky. The PanaCast was much smaller than I expected, essentially the size of a traditional webcam. This gives Jabra’s solution one major advantage over many others: portability. A dedicated huddle space can have hardware mounted in place, but remote teams can tote the PanaCast along with ease and create a huddle space virtually anywhere simply by placing a laptop at one end of a table.
Unlike traditional webcams, the PanaCast contains three built-in cameras stitched together in real time via the onboard PanaCast Vision Processor. The result is a 180-degree horizontal, 54-degree vertical panoramic view at a resolution of 3840x1080 at 30 fps. Additional view modes and resolutions are available when a full panoramic display isn’t necessary.