Logitech TV Cam HD: Make your very own video wall

Whether you’re a fan of Skype or you’ve always dreamed of taking your telephone calls over a live-vision video wall, the new Logitech TV Cam HD could be just the ticket. We’ve seen TVs with Skype capabilities starting to creep into the market, but this standalone high-definition TV camera promises even more.

Logitech-Skype-Camera

It has built-in Skype and Wi-Fi connectivity and works with any HDTV with HDMI input to beam your callers onto the big-screen – ideal for making group calls, whether you’re a home-worker or have family far away.

These capabilities for “lounge conferencing” mean you can phone anyone you know with a Skype account – on their smartphone, laptop, TV or tablet – and they’ll see everything the wide-angle camera sees. So you’ll have to tidy up and change out of your jarmies if you’re due a business call with your international head office! But the beauty of this is that you don’t have to squeeze up to fit in front of the camera on your computer or mobile. You can move around comfortably – just don’t forget they’re watching!!

Everything you need to get going is built in to the device. Place the Logitech TV Cam HD on top of your telly and link to your Wi-Fi. Or for a wired connection use the Ethernet and plug in to the HDMI port. Then switch on and prepare to welcome callers into your lounge. Just log in to Skype as you would on a computer or mobile and use the remote control to navigate the interface. A built-in telephone ringer on the camera alerts you to incoming calls even if your telly is turned off!

The camera itself delivers HD 720p resolution and uses Logitech Fluid Crystal Technology and Carl Zeiss optics for a sharp, rich picture in all light levels rather than a grainy webcam profile of Skype calls gone by. Four integral noise-cancelling mics let you talk normally from wherever you are without interference from ambient sound.

Because it all comes through your regular HDTV, you won’t have to wrench the kids away from the telly to speak to far-flung relatives.  So next Christmas when you’re opening up presents, family and friends far and wide could be right there in your lounge as the action unwraps! And because it will capture the live reactions, you can save money on stamps sending thank you cards!

Logitech TV Cam HD is available across Europe from September. SRP £179

www.logitech.com

I’m with the band – happy birthday from Skype

Here’s how to be your mate’s new BFF – sign up to Skype’s newest service and wish them the best birthday ever with a bit of help from bands including Imogen Heap, Parlotones, Bowling for Soup, Charlie Simpson and Kill the Young.

Obviously, this is only going to work if your friend is young/trendy enough to have even heard of any of them. If they are, then here’s how it works.

Skype-Birthday

Head to Skype’s Facebook page and click on the Say it with Skype app. Then choose which friend is going to get the video greeting – and then choose which of the 10 bands taking part they’d like to hear from.

You can have a bit of fun yourself, by singing along with the band’s pre-recorded performance using your own video webcam.

You could also personalise your message by adding a profile pic and writing a personal message for the band to hold up.

Do this and you’ll also get a one week free trial of Skype’s new group vieo call feature. I used this last week for a group conference call, and it was pretty effective, although of course it is only as effective as your broadband connection.

Other bands taking part are Ash, Body Language, CSS and Scarlett Grey.

FREETALK Connect•Me Home Phone Adapter

It’s good to talk. And it’s great to talk for free. However the magic of VoIP (which lest we forget, has been with us for many many years now) still eludes some people. For many it’s a location thing. You use a phone as a phone, sat whereever you feel like (curled up on the sofa or even in the bath) and have a nice long natter. The PC (or at least the conventional desktop PC) is nowhere near as flexible. As with many great pieces of technology, the key to mass adoption is making things as simple to use as possible. Hence the introduction of the FREETALK Connect•Me Home Phone Adapter for Skype.

Skype-Connect-Me

The FREETALK Connect•Me Home Phone Adapter is designed to make it easier for consumers to enjoy Skype conversations with any of their Skype contacts, regardless of their device, including: computers (PC, Mac or Linux), iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones and even to fancy a Skype-enabled HDTV. Consumers can also receive Skype to Skype calls from other Skype users on their landline phone using the Connect•Me Home Phone Adapter.

So how is it to set up? I hate to describe things as idiotproof, but the colour coded plug and play setup makes getting things going pretty straightforward. You only need a PC or Mac for the initial set up (after which you don’t have to turn on a computer to connect to Skype) and helpfully all the cords and cables needed to connect to home phones and to the Internet are included in box.

In addition, The FREETALK Connect•Me Home Phone Adapter also enables regular landline calling – simply add a prefix ## for a Skype call or * for a regular landline conversation and you can of course tweak this to your preference.

For more info check out Skype

The Moshi Moshi 05 mobile handset. Now you’re talking!

Since when did handsets go designer? In age when traditional telephone handsets are looked upon with scorn by the wearers of small sleek earphones with mikes; (you know the sort; they walk along the street apparently talking to themselves) along comes a designer with a new range of traditional handsets for mobile phones that are set to buck the trend.

Moshi-Moshi-05

The art of conversation is dead according to Native Union; a partnership of Hong Kong based British and French designers who want to reinvent how we interact with our mobile phones. They are convinced we are slaves to our mobiles, unable to do anything else because we have to hold them all the time. So why not invent a traditional looking handset that attaches itself to our mobile and provides us with crystal clear sound? That way we can look at our phone calendar to check a date, or view emails without having to pausing the conversation. Even Skype or Viber can be then be used just like a traditional telephone when you think about it. Unlike the four previous Moshi Moshi phones on the market, this latest model does not need a base unit. Acclaimed industrial designer David Turpin was tasked with creating a cutting edge design and he came up with an ergonomic handset that can sit tidily on a desk or any flat surface without using a base to hold it.

The Moshi Moshi 05 handset combines classic style with a contemporary edge and is finished with a luxurious black soft-touch or white high-gloss texture. The handset is fitted with a 3.5mm jack which is iPhone compatible, and and when fitted with a USB adaptor (sold separately) can be used for VOIP calls such as Skype Viber or Google Talk.
The MM05 is available from www.nativeunion.com/uk at £24.90

Logitech C510 HD webcam review

Video calling is one of those “futuristic” technologies that seemed to have snuck into modern life and passed by without much hoo-hah. Despite its obvious advantages – with so much communication being non-verbal – I still get the majority of my calls over the phone or communicate via email.

This could be for a number of reasons: circumstances, convenience, my ridiculous beard. However I’m also guessing that the low quality of webcams played a factor – blocky pixellated faces are not that much fun to look at and unless you have special circumstances – such as a loved one the other side of the globe – then it didn’t always seem worth the effort.

Logitech-C510

Of course the situation is improving. High quality webcams are included in most modern smartphones and tablets (you can even get one for my TV) and the proliferation of iDevices should have more people Skyping and FaceTiming each other. People on more traditional machines (as John Gruber so rightly points out, with the proliferation of tablets and smartphones we should probably rethink what we class as a personal computer) now have access to HD webcams, offering high resolution video calling if you have a suitably fast internet connection.

The Logitech C510 is one such device. The USB2.0 connection means you can add it to just about any machine and be ready for action. It worked pretty much instantly in OSX, without recourse to drivers like the bad old days of computing. The C510 is designed for portability and is built to fold up and be thrown in a bag. This is useful – although the cable is left dangling out the back. A detachable (lose-able) cable might make things a little neater, but it’s not a major problem. The actual webcam is designed to perch on top of your monitor but the reasonably flexible design means you can make it freestanding with a little bit of practice. A marquee feature is the “swivel-cam” which means you can grab the camera and rotate it 360 degrees – cable permitting – to show your conversational partner what is happening around you. I know you could just pick up with the webcam and show them, but it’s a nice little feature.

Skype HD or Logitech Vid HD allow you to make HD 720p video calls and there is one-click uploading to Facebook and YouTube – so expect more Young Girl Talking About Herself videos than every before. In HD!
You can also take 8-megapixel photos of the things in front of your laptop with a reasonably good (but not amazing) camera.

The Logitech C510 is around £45 and worth a look if you make a lot of video calls and would like people to actually see you.

Dell XPS laptop range: 3D, HD and Skype enabled machines

Reading through Dell’s new XPS laptops press release, although one is impressed with the promise of High Definition NVIDIA graphics and the ability to watch “eye-popping” 3D games, movies and videos on large screen 3D televisions, not much really jumped out of the description over the other many press releases about new HD laptops flooding technology critics inboxes at present. Until, that is, the words ‘the industry’s first’ leapt out of the screen, a line that guarantees to rivet one’s concentration back to a text.

Dell-XPS

“The industry’s first Skype-certified laptops with HD video streaming webcams so you can stay close to friends and family”, Dell excitedly enthuses. Skype, what an ingenious invention that was, and one, which in my opinion, has not had enough publicity and praise written about it. Savvy Skype users have now kissed goodbye to hefty phone bills by making internet calls for free. Skype’s wiser gains were pushed even further when webcams became a regular feature on modern-day desks, enabling the visual to be interconnected with, what was for years, a solely aural experience, and all, for Skype-to-Skype users, for free!

Although this is a review about Dell’s new XPS laptops and not about Skype, but the point I am making is that by being the first Skype-certified laptops and by incorporating HD video streaming webcams, being able to speak and watch friends and family with a higher quality, HD experience, in an extremely economic way, Dell may have come up with a winner.

Although redefining the whole Skype experience is far from the only quality of Dell’s new XPS laptops worthy of a mention.

Aurally, Dell claims these laptops produce the loudest and clearest sound the company has ever produced, and with built-in JBL designed and certified speakers with integrated MaxxAudio 3 processing technology, it is easy to understand the laptops will not fail to live up to these impressive audio claims.

Visually, the laptops sound equally as capable of producing a ‘cinema-like’ experience. Being available in both 15 and 17 inch size screens, all of these stylish laptops include NVIDIA’s 3DTV Play software, enabling users to connect their Dell XPS laptops to 3D HDTVs and enjoy watching Blu-ray 3D films, browsing through 3D photos and videos and playing games in immerse stereoscopic 3D.

We may have come somewhat complacent about valuing an immersive entertainment experience that is seemingly provided in all forms of technology, but Dell’s new family of XPS laptops really is “pushing the limits” on high-definition, 3D multimedia entertainment.

TWIG: Wiki AudioVibe, Plextor PX0B120U 3D USB drive and Skype/Facebook love-in

The week in gadgets.

Ever been caught short without a boombox? I know you have. What you need is AudioVibe, a portable widget that allows you to produce sound, utilising vibrations and nearby objects. Hollow box-like objects are obviously best but there is a certain amount of fun that can be had from experimenting with other interestingly shaped objects – and I can imagine children (or playfully inclined adults) having lots of fun seeing what objects sound like. You’ll need 2 * AA batteries to get things going – but small output wattage means very little actual power is consumed so they should last you a reasonable amount of time. Whilst not the world’s most amazing sound system, there is a reasonable amount of novelty value and in a pinch the AudioVibe could save a party. Yours for only £19.95.

AudioVibe

If you got a chance to peek at my inbox you would basically see “3D!3D!3D!3D!3D!iPod Dock3D!3D!”. There is a pretty concerted industry-wide push to get 3D into the hands of regular consumers. From handheld 3D video cameras, to 3D laptops to the mnemonically titled Plextor PX-B120U – a USB 3D and High Definition drive that enables you to upgrade your existing hardware to 3D without throwing the whole lot away. You can also use it as a Stand-alone Blu-Ray player as well by just plugging it into the TV. Pretty handy for £79.99.

In other news Skype got all up in my FaceBook (sorry). Beloved VoIP client Skype has upgraded its desktop software to 5.0 (but not the Mac or iPad versions? What gives guys?). The headline features on the Windows version would have to be the new integration with Facebook, making Skype a lot more social. Your Facebook feed now appears in Skype (how useful this is really depends on your social circle). You can also Skype chat or video call your Facebook buddies from the Windows client, marking another step in Facebook’s growing domination of the Internet landscape. More exciting to me was the beta feature for group chats – enabling 10-way video calls. With video cameras being built into almost everything the future is creeping closer and closer. Check it out.

Beauty is in the eye of the ZTE-holder: The new ZTE F930

Fancy a mobile phone that will enable you to access your mail, Facebook and Twitter accounts but don’t feel like dropping hundreds of pounds of waiting hours and hours in queues for shiny new iPhones? Well thanks to a new handset collaboration between ZTE and 3 you may not have to.

ZTE and 3 invited us down to have a play with the F930 and to talk a little about the future of mobile phones. The F930 is a cheap and cheerful touch screen 3G handset, targeted at students or first jobbers who don’t necessarily have the disposable income to drop on the latest and greatest but who still need access to social media on the go.
The F930 is smooth and pebble like and more chic than any phone that cheap has any right to be. The virtual keyboard was a little too small for my chubby fingers and I struggled to type fluidly. However the slender-fingered lady next to me had no problems at all and Mr. Wu Sa, director of mobile device operations, ZTE (UK) Ltd, was quick to point out there had been a stylus neatly tucked away in the corner of the phone all along that made typing much easier.

Unsurprisingly for a 3 phone, the F930 works well with Skype and has a host of features that are slowly becoming standard on low-end phones – a capacitive touch screen, Bluetooth, multimedia music player and a three mega-pixel camera. I took a few pictures of the slender fingered lady, which were unspectacular but fine for a casual shot at a party – exactly where I could see this phone being used. Planet 3 – an App store from the days before the App Store, also works and has a host of simple games and utilities as well as musical offerings.

If I was a parent looking for a functional phone for my tweens, a student on a budget or a just someone who didn’t want all the bells and whistles of a smartphone … but did want some bells and whistles I’d be happy with the ZTE F930. The F930 is £69.99 on a Pay As You Go contract and free on certain Pay Monthly tariffs.

ZTE and Three UK are also announcing an online competition that will give consumers the chance to win an F930 and a bespoke handbag to house the new handset. The competition will go live later this month and give five lucky winners a luxury leather handbag valued at £500, which will be customised according to the winner’s preferences and include a ZTE F930 compartment.