Dell’s Magnetic Wireless Webcam Concept Can Help You Forget That Famous Nasal Camera


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Enlarge / The prototype can stick onto a screen so you can place it at eye level, or anywhere you like.

Scharon harding

If you were to ask me to guess which company is revamping the webcam positioning, I wouldn’t name Dell. That’s because I still remember the infamous webcam in the nose of the Dell XPS, an unfortunately placed shooter that has provided a view into the nostrils of countless XPS users for years. But Dell wants a different, more positive reason for you to pair it with awesome webcams, and ironically, the company strives to get webcams in the most ideal location possible.

Dell introduced Concept Pari to the press last week (at the same event where it presented its serviceable Concept Luna PC). This is a 1080p webcam prototype that can pop out of its case with a simple pinch, to be placed anywhere the magnets work. The idea is that the camera will continue to send video to a PC connected via Wi-Fi, even a few meters away. The most obvious use case for Concept Pari is to stick it directly on your computer screen rather than on its bezel. This creates a more intimate space for conversation with your distant interlocutors, bringing their view of you to eye level.

The webcam is placed closer to eye level to make the call more like real life.
Enlarge / The webcam is placed closer to eye level to make the call more like real life.

Scharon harding

“It can be placed directly, anywhere, on compatible displays, in a charging station, on a stand, or even hand-held,” explained Dell Technologies’ CTO of Customer Solutions Group Glen Robson in a blog post today.

Dell has come a long way since 2015, when, as NotebookCheck recalls, it put the XPS 13 webcam in an unfortunate position: the lower left corner of the laptop’s lower bezel. I still have a laptop with a nasal camera and let me tell you the upward shot is very difficult to avoid unless you lift the machine very high. The shot is not only unappealing, but makes serious and professional calls almost impossible. However, the camera remained there until 2019, when Dell finally removed the cam from the nose of the XPS 13, as well as the XPS 15.

My 2016 era XPS 13 still works, but the webcam brings back bad memories.
Enlarge / My 2016 era XPS 13 still works, but the webcam brings back bad memories.

Scharon harding

The webcam is not just for beautifying your face. Theoretically, it could also help you look more professional. Dell introduced the camera as a viable tool for presentations, making it easier for workers to show things like sketches and prototypes.

The webcam is magnetically attached to a metal bracket to give a top-to-bottom view of the paper below.
Enlarge / The webcam is magnetically attached to a metal bracket to give a top-to-bottom view of the paper below.

Scharon harding

The whole weighs about an ounce. It also has a microphone and an indicator light to help straighten your eyesight. When not in use, Concept Pari can be found in its case, which can live on a monitor and recharge.

The base above the monitor charges the wireless webcam.
Enlarge / The base above the monitor charges the wireless webcam.

Dell

You can even place it upside down to make sure no one sees you. The battery life of the current prototype is “close” to an hour, a Dell spokesperson said at a press conference. It’s not awful for personal calls, but my business calls often last longer. After his death, however, Dell’s concept was that the camera would still be usable from its charging base.

The prototype is at 1080p, and that’s a lot of pixels for most occasions. But some brands, including Dell, offer 4K webcams. Resolution is one of the things Dell would have to balance if Concept Pari were to become a real product, alongside price and battery life, 4K specs would also affect.

Higher resolution will adversely affect the battery life of the camera.
Enlarge / Higher resolution will adversely affect the battery life of the camera.

Scharon harding

But Concept Pari is only a prototype. It’s unclear how long an actual Dell wireless magnetic webcam would last, or if the company will even release one. Dell announced the project today with Concept Stanza, an 11-inch display that can be used for collaboration, note-taking and screen mirroring, and Concept Flow, a workspace with wireless charging and Wi-Fi docking station 6E. These are only demonstrations of features and / or products that Dell may potentially present one day.

That said, it’s nice to see Dell getting as far out of front-camera territory as possible, even if only through a prototype.

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