US-based startup Owl Labs has today unveiled a video conference camera with a few neat tricks up its sleeve. Designed to make sometimes chaotic remote business meetings feel more natural, the Meeting Owl camera features a 360-degree camera that can both broadcast the entire room and focus automatically on the person speaking.

The Andy Rubin-backed Owl Labs says the video camera is able to focus on the person or persons speaking thanks to something called beamforming. This is the same technology used in Amazon's Echo speakers and uses an array of smaller microphones arranged in such a away to create a highly directional beam, allowing a user's voice to be isolated from a noisy background.

In the case of the Meeting Owl, this consists of eight microphones that enable everyone within a 12-foot (3.6-m) diameter to be heard. But it's what happens when it hears those people that is most impressive. By default, the camera shows participants a panoramic view of the room, but when a new voice is detected it automatically pulls up a face-to-face view as well so you can look directly at the person speaking.

The cylindrical camera connects via a USB cable and comes ready to go with a bunch of common video conferencing tools such as Skype, Zoom, Slack, GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts, so there's no need for downloads or installation.

Priced at US$799, Meeting Owl could definitely be seen as a luxury for those perfectly happy huddling around laptops for the odd video call. But for organizations that spend a lot of time dialling in folks from remote locations it may be worthy investment. It is available now.

Source: Owl Labs

View gallery - 3 images