28 August 2020

REVIEW: Meeting Owl Pro

Actual round tables

Virtual meetings are now a way of life. Even those of us who have returned to the office are now faced with daily video calls to clients, colleagues, and even distant family. But, even with the best camera setup you can imagine, have you ever been frustrated when it comes to fitting everyone in frame? If you need to make a call with lots of people speaking, you should definitely cast a curious eye this way. We test the Owl Labs Meeting Owl Pro.

Unlike most other cameras you have used to conduct a video meeting, the Meeting Owl Pro SEES ALL, KNOWS ALL. BOW DOWN TO THE OWL.

What we actually mean, is that this cone-like, cylindrical device uses a top-mounted, 360 degree camera to track all speakers sitting around it in a circle. So, instead of mounting your camera facing one direction, near to your screen, the Meeting Owl Pro sits in the middle. King Arthur would've loved that.

That dome camera on top captures video at 1080p, while the base is packed with the speakers and microphones required for actual functioning calls. Apart from the volume and mute buttons, there are no physical controls on the Meeting Owl Pro. It's simple plug and play.

We thought it would be a lot more complicated than that. But really, we popped in the included USB cable, opened up our video conference suite of choice (MS Teams here, but also occasionally Zoom) and selected the Owl as the main camera input. That's it.

Then we saw what the camera saw. IT SAW EVERYTHING. We were presented with a split screen view, the top third of which being taken up by the 360 degree view of the office. Everyone sitting around the Owl Pro could be seen, albeit in a very small frame. But below that, taking up the remaining screen space, was what the camera was intentionally focusing on.

That means, that when someone started to speak, the Meeting Owl Pro locked onto that person and framed around their face. When someone else started to speak, the screen split further to show the other person, showing them both in glorious Full HD.

For the caller, this means they can see who is talking to them, larger, and clearer than they would on a simple wide-angle office camera, or low-res webcam. Plus, when you first switch it on, it hoots like an owl. Nice.

We really enjoyed using the Meeting Owl Pro. If you run an office with lots of people who all need to speak in a group video call, and need to be seen clearly, then the Owl Pro is definitely for you. Obviously, innovation such as this comes at a cost, and following recent release in the UK the Meeting Owl Pro will set you back a quid shy of £1000.

It's for that reason that we can't really recommend it for organisations like our own; a handful of people, who often only need to make one-on-one video calls, with a tight budget. The Meeting Owl Pro is an investment to be made to, initially at least, impress your callers with something different - something innovative. With virtual meeting now happening every day for many of us, a change to the expected norm will certainly make you stand out.

For everyone else? Well, until Owl Labs can bring in similar tech and functionality for at least a third of the cost, the Meeting Owl Pro will most probably remain a fancy gadget of the boardroom.


Available from www.amazon.co.uk

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