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Videoconferencing Startup Owl Labs Garners $5M


August 23, 2016

Two-year-old Owl Labs has reportedly raised $5 million of the $6 million it’s shooting for in a round the company hopes to use to gets its plug-and-play, voice tracking videoconferencing camera business off the ground.

The company, founded by iRobot veterans Max Makeev and Mark Schnittman, is currently in beta with the solution.

The Owl Labs camera, which automatically focuses on whoever is speaking, looks like a black vase with a glowing blue strip on it. It was designed to works seamlessly with Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Skype and other popular videoconferencing services and software.

Enabling users to break out of the videoconferencing islands that have long restricted them to communications only with those on the same technology is a growing trend. Lifesize solutions are integrated with Skype for Business. And just last week Cisco Systems unveiled the Cisco Meeting Server. Cisco said it allows organizations with Cisco meeting rooms to connect with users of Skype for Business.

Speaking of Cisco, it too has a voice-tracking camera called the Cisco SpeakerTrack. The SpeakerTrack 60 uses two cameras; one locates the active speaker and does a close up on that person, the other camera pans so it’s ready to lock in on the next speaker.

But it is Polycom that is credited with introducing the first camera that automatically zooms on the speaker. That solution is called the EagleEye Director.

(iRobot, by the way, is in videoconferencing as well. It sells the Ava 500 video collaboration robot, which includes a videoconferencing screen at the top and a base that enables it to get around for use in medical facilities or offices.)

Andrew W. David, senior analyst and partner of Wainhouse Research, in an email exchange with me today, noted the list of investors for Owl Labs is impressive. He also commented: “The roadside is littered with vendors who have tried to make a go in the personal and room video conferencing spaces. The dangers are many. There are many innovations taking place in the ‘webcam’ market, including intelligent panoramic cameras, artificial intelligence for focus, and beam forming microphones. In the consumer space or the enterprise personal space, price is very important. In the room market, solving the audio-quality challenge (where to put the microphones) is still an event waiting to happen.” 




Edited by Alicia Young

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