webOS Video Conferencing in the works - Built for teams 47
In a document tipped to us from HP Laboratories, we can finally get an idea of how HP plans on bringing multiple-user video conferencing to webOS devices (especially smartphones and tablets). While we aren't sure this will be coming to the Pre 3 or TouchPad when they are launched, epecially when the ideas listed in the document are still in a heavy testing phase, this concept of video conferencing for webOS devices seems well enough advanced that it could be a valuable tool that many teams will take advantage of within a year or less.
This document outlines more than just your simple video conferencing tools that are currently available in smartphones, and if you jump after the break you'll be able to see some of the features that HP Labs is working on that will enhance the video conferencing experience substantially over the competition. Will these concepts allow HP's webOS video conference to trounce FaceTime and others? Can't be too sure about that yet, but it certainly helps the cause.
Two Problems Solved: The "Nostril Cam" and Multi-Party Woes
What HP Labs is working on, that other device manufacturers have not introduced us to yet, is not simply improving the video capture quality of these devices through advancements in the camera. That would solve almost nothing. Instead they are trying to use many of the technologies that are already available in the devices, like the accelerometer and touch screen, to create a user-experience that is beyond what many have previously considered possible. By doing this, they have essentially solved two problems with video conferencing that have kept it from catching on so quickly amongst corporate teams - the infamous "Nostril Cam", and the tiny views the plague multi-party conferencing enough to make it nearly unusable.
How are they planning on solving these problems with webOS? Let's take one at a time:
The "Nostril Cam", which really is just the user's inability to hold the device at a good angle to make them look more attractive/professional, is as annoying for the viewer as it is embarrassing for the person braodcasting the video. FaceTime has a solution for this: they require users to look at themselves in a mirror image that sits in a corner. But, as HP truthfully says, not everyone wants to look at themselves when talking to someone else.
By capitalizing on the gyroscope, accelerometer and other such technologies that are already found in webOS devices, HP brings a creative way to solve this problem and cut your face out of the corner of the screen. Instead of the solution from Apple, they'll make it somewhat uncomfortable for a user to hold the phone any other way. If the device recognizes that the view angle is looking up at the person, it will change the incoming video's saturation and contrast subtely (based on the angle) to naturally convince the user to naturally change the angle and pick up a better view of themselves. They'll also create a way for the camera to determine how a user is positioning themselves in the camera, and again make the necessary changes.
The second problem, which is found often in devices that try to squeeze all video conferencing participant onto one view, has been solved in a similar way. If there are four participants, for example, each of their video streams will be arranged in an order as if they were all sitting at a round table. As the viewer tilts their device or pans it slightly, each party that has joined the conference will pop into view individually. Of course, you'll also be able to use the touch screen to swipe between each stream.
These two solutions will allow you to see everyone's bright and beautiful face, sitting at the best possible angle, in a full-screen view on multiple webOS devices that have video conferencing added in (we'll take a guess that it'll only be available for those devices with front-facing cameras). These also get rid of whatever limit that currently comes with multi-party video conferencing software (allowing more people to get hooked in), and in fact puts multi-party video conferencing on all webOS devices (as opposed to FaceTime's current 1-on-1 approach).
There are plenty of other details to read in the HP Labs document which we've included in the link below, as well as some proof that their solutions actually do work for consumers and background details into other steps that will be necessary before this tech is released to the public. With all of the work that HP is putting into the future of their webOS technology, we'll add multi-party video conferencing to the list of highly-anticipated features.
Source: HP Labs (PDF) Thanks Isaac!