Dell’s wireless webcam prototype uses magnets to stick to a screen


Ahead of CES 2022, Dell previews a series of concept products as it usually does around this time every year. Previously, the company teased us with a Switch-esque PC gaming console and a pair of foldable dual-screen computers. This time, Dell is showing off a few prototypes around “seamless work experiences” called Concept Flow, Concept Stanza, and Concept Pari. I tried them out at a recent demo in New York (while adhering to COVID-19 protocols) and was surprised at how sophisticated they are.

Out of the three, Pari is my favorite. It’s a prototype wireless camera that attaches magnetically to a compatible display, so you can place it at eye level while zooming in on your colleagues. Not only does this help maintain a more natural look while you talk, but it also allows you to keep your notes or script behind the camera in some sort of teleprompter setup. However, the magnets won’t work with just any standard monitor; you should also use one with built-in magnets.

I appreciate the elegance of Dell’s approach. The webcam sits in a holder on top of the monitor and you remove it if you want a different angle. When docked, the webcam charges wirelessly (and is supposed to light up a light to indicate it’s juicing, although this didn’t happen during our demo). You can also flip the camera to face the back of the dock if you want some privacy, so if someone is spying on you, they’ll only see the black cover.

Gallery: Dell Concept Pari First Look | 4 photos Gallery: Dell Concept Pari First Look | 4 photos

During my short time with the prototype, I was able to easily pick up the webcam and attach it to the monitor. The magnets were strong enough to hold the camera in place and prevent it from shifting, but not so strong that I had to struggle to take it off. I especially liked the stand that Dell made for Pari, which makes it an overhead camera for overhead shots. It was helpful to pick the camera off the screen and stick it to the magnetic disk on the stand, which looked like a thin, modern light. The version I checked out during our demo felt a bit flimsy and I wish the drive had pivoted on a hinge to provide more flexibility in angles, but since this is just a concept I’ll withhold my complaints for now.

While Pari is currently a prototype, Dell has some specs to share. The device weighs about 30 grams and this version has a built-in microphone. It streams 1080p video over Wi-Fi and has a light above the front lens to indicate when the camera is level, making it easier to make sure your scene is straight. The holder also uses USB-C for charging. Since this isn’t something the company wants to sell right now, it doesn’t have any details on battery life, let alone a possible price.

Dell

Dell’s other two concepts were more about multi-device environments. For example, Flow uses a dock to connect all the devices in your home office, such as a monitor, keyboard, mouse and charger. Then your laptop can connect to it wirelessly and charge at the same time. If you move the laptop out of Bluetooth range, the external monitor will lock and reconnect when you return to your computer. According to Dell, Flow is the result of bringing together “devices, industry-standard wireless charging technology, intelligent software applications and Wi-Fi 6E docking technology to create a unique, seamless experience.”

Finally, Stanza revolves around an 11-inch “companion device” that is basically a thin and light tablet with no ports. Dell said it “consciously chose not to include cameras or speakers for a distraction-free experience.” You can write on it with a stylus and double tap to convert your scribbles to digital text. As with many note-taking apps, you can also draw a line through words to delete them. If you draw a Venn diagram, Dell’s system can also convert your imperfect circles with squiggly lines into flawless spheres. The tablet can also serve as an extra screen on which you can expand or mirror everything on the screen of your laptop.

Dell

Again, as these are all just concepts, Dell has no pricing or availability information to share, but we may see aspects of these designs crop up in future products. In addition, yesterday the company showed another concept called Luna, and it’s a way to make PCs more durable by making their parts easier to replace. Dell is clearly exploring how to create products that align with industry trends (such as hybrid workforces, sustainability), and hopefully we’ll see some of the benefits of this in its actual products soon.

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