The Poly Studio P15: Searching for a better home videoconferencing answer

With video chats such a vital part of the work-from-home world we're in, having the right hardware makes a big difference. Here's one system that, while pricey, does a good job.

Poly Studio P15

Like many of my peers during the pandemic, I’ve been living off a Logitech Brio camera, which was considered the best in the market until recently.  The problem is that Logitech didn’t seem to understand how important this camera had become and refused to support it properly.  (It has driver issues with AMD-based PCs, the company won’t address them, the initial application support ended, and much of it doesn’t work anymore. 

Most other cameras on the market arrived before COVID-29 and were more designed for infrequent use when traveling — not for permanent use from a home office.  Yes, you can get conference room systems and adapt them for the home, but that is a wicked expensive path — and people don’t have conference rooms at home. 

Now, Poly has sent me its new P15 Studio P15 video bar, and it’s the best desktop home conferencing option I’ve tested so far. 

Let’s talk about how this technology will likely evolve.

The Poly Studio P15 in detail

The Poly Studio P15 looks like a miniature version of the camera system Poly brought out earlier for conference rooms.  It is about two-thirds as wide and has a mechanical lens cover rather than the removable one its conference room setup uses.  This makes it too small to put on a TV but too big for a laptop. It is perfect for a desktop monitor, though, and sits on top of my 49-in. Dell monitor nicely. (FYI: Dell is a client of mine)

Because it can be used as a USB hub, you can clean up some of the wiring behind your desk (which I need to do, it’s a mess back there). As for the mechanical lens cover, you twist the lens surround to close, offering peace of mind if you fear your PC has been hacked and some remote hacker wants to stare at you all day.  

The Poly Studio 15 has two other advantages. One is automatic centering; if you move around, it will try to adjust to keep your head in the middle of the frame. (It is a bit slow to respond, but it does work.) And it uses a noise-canceling microphone that removes ambient noise around you.  This last is particularly helpful at home, where folks seem to be quiet when you aren’t on in a video call and make noises when you are. 

At $599, this isn’t a cheap answer. But if your appearance is important and you’re spending as much time on videoconference calls as I do, you can justify the price. 

Wrapping up: Future features

The`P15 is great on its own, but there is a ton of R&D going into this area several things I expect to show up in the next 24 months.  First is better digital makeup. Zoom is already playing with this if you drill down to where the virtual background capability is. It is pretty goofy now, but I expect you’ll be able to select a look you like — and then get that look, regardless of whether you put on makeup or are even awake. 

Deep Fake technology is also coming. This will allow you to select a complete look (clothing, age, hair, etc.) and form a photorealistic avatar that the other side will see. This avatar will mimic your every move and make it so you don’t even have to get dressed up if you don’t want to. (I’m particularly looking forward to this for those 5 a.m. meetings; getting up at 4:30 a.m. is getting old.)

I also expect we’ll get more realistic green screen backgrounds with adjustable depth of field. Today, they aren’t very realistic, showing artifacts that make it clear that what your audience is seeing isn’t real.  Advanced mixed reality projects are beginning to show how you can blend the real with the artificial. At future conferences, your audience won’t be able to tell whether that office, or even the planet behind you, is real. 

Until then, this Poly P15 is arguably one of the best options for those of us that want to look good in meetings.  Even at 5 a.m.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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