In preparation for the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2022, Dell showcased an array of futuristic PC and workspace concepts. (See our first look at “Concept Luna,” a new paradigm for recyclable and upgradable laptops, in the video above. ) The real-world products will not be revealed until the new year, but one of the most intriguing prototypes unveiled ahead of the show is the “Concept Pari,” a moveable webcam that can be moved around the room.
With many millions of people now working from home and spending their days (and, in some cases, nights) communicating remotely via voice and video calls, webcams have, unsurprisingly, risen to the status of hardware superstars during the COVID-19 pandemic. The technology and form factor of webcams, on the other hand, have remained largely unchanged. The resolution of webcam sensors has occasionally been increased by manufacturers (particularly those of laptops), but the overall design of webcams has remained largely unchanged.
Concept Pari is a wireless webcam that is cylindrical in shape and can be moved. What makes this camera so special is that, with certain supported monitors, the body of the camera can stick directly onto the display of your monitor, allowing you to look directly into the eyes of the other party or parties. We understand that the camera placement appears to be obstructive, and you may be wondering what the point of it all is. A live demonstration, on the other hand, convinced us that it’s a pretty cool concept.
A Webcam That Makes Eye Contact Straightforward
First, let’s go back to the beginning. At this point, Concept Pari is only a prototype and not a finished product, though it appears to be much more realistic than the majority of other concepts we typically see at CES. The camera body, as designed, can be placed on top of your monitor in a charging dock/mounting cradle and used in the same manner as a standard webcam. However, the lens housing, which is a small cylinder, can be removed with relative ease. It’s a 1080p camera with built-in microphones that weighs only an ounce and has a resolution of 1080p. Furthermore, it is completely wireless, transmitting its 1080p feed over Wi-Fi.
The buttock end of the camera (the end opposite the lens) is magnetic, and it can be attached directly to the monitor (as long as the monitor allows it to be done so). While on a video call, you can move the lens on the display so that it is directly opposite the (virtual) face of the person you’re speaking with, which is very convenient.
By doing so, you will appear to be maintaining eye contact with the person with whom you are conversing when you look at his or her face when you talk to them. The camera module can, in some cases, obscure your view of a small portion of the screen, but the Concept Pari cam is small, and in a video call, we wager that most, if not all, of the screen space will be filled with empty background space. It is possible to place the Pari camera where it makes the most sense on the screen in order to simulate looking the other person in the eyes while you’re listening to them talk.
When making a video call, anyone who has done so knows that looking at the person you’re talking to means staring at the computer monitor, with the actual camera lens several inches above your eyes. (This is especially noticeable on large monitors and with desktop computers, as opposed to laptop webcams.) Looking into the camera lens can help to counteract this, but doing so means you’re looking away from the screen and missing out on the other party’s facial expressions and cues as they speak, which isn’t normal during a normal conversation. That’s a minor detail that will annoy some users more than others, but it is worth mentioning. Pari is a straightforward solution.
The part on Your Display, or in a Stand
It is possible to charge and store the Pari camera device in the monitor-top dock/cradle. The dock/cradle is powered by USB-C and charges the camera wirelessly when it is docked. In addition, when not in use, you can rotate the camera cylinder so that the lens is facing the rear of the cradle, which provides more privacy for the user.
Dell also demonstrated a small vertical desk stand, which allows you to hang the camera at your desk so that it is facing down. Using this stand, you can hold your camera with two hands while displaying physical paperwork, a product, or drawings. The camera will remain steady while you show off your items with two hands at an optimal angle.
You can easily imagine the applications, and if you’re concerned about placing a camera directly on your screen, where it might obscure some of your view, know that it blends in during a phone call once it’s been placed. The difference in camera angle between being in the center of the monitor and being many inches above that point is significant, as you can see in the image below.
The most frequently asked question we received concerned the use of Concept Pari’s adhering magnets on or near your display. (That sounds like something you’ve probably been warned to stay away from! We enquired about this with Dell, and the representatives assured us that modern LCD monitors are not susceptible to distortion or damage in the same way that old CRT monitors are, even with weak magnets.
Yes, the monitor itself would have to be compatible with Concept Pari, which would entail having a metal backplate behind the display panel that spans the entire expanse and can be magnetized to the camera’s magnetic field. Naturally, the monitor Dell used for the demonstration was functional, but Dell representatives noted that any implementation of Pari would need to apply such a build to a wide range of monitors in order to achieve maximum versatility.
Converting the camera to work with a variety of non-Dell monitors would be a much more difficult (and possibly impossible) undertaking. Even in Pari’s theoretical form, the Dell representatives stated that it was much more likely that the camera would be primarily compatible with Dell products than with any other brand. This limits the number of possible applications, though if the device were to be purchased in bulk for a business, it would be simple to arrange for the purchase of compatible Dell monitors as well.
Concept Pari may or may not appear in the real world at some point in the future, but for the time being, it is a fascinating prototype to observe. Check out the rest of our CES 2022 coverage, which includes everything from futuristic concepts to brand-new product introductions.