Cast your memory back to 1995. The Web was a huge ever-growing pulsating brain that ruled from the center of the Ultraworld (apologies to The Orb), and online experts were predicting that person-to-person meetings were a thing of the past due to the upcoming onslaught of Webcams. It didn't quite work out that way, did it? Webcams running over a 33.3Kbps modem were hardly worth the effort, and setting up the coffee-cam was about as far as anybody ever got.
Logitech recently released the QuickCam Orbit, a futuristic-looking (think Hal from 2001) Webcam with a twist—inside the camera ball, you'll find a motor that lets the camera pan across a room or zoom in (as far as 300 percent) on your subject.
The QuickCam Orbit can turn 128 degrees left to right and 54 degrees up and down, giving you unparalleled viewing control during a Webcam meeting. I tested the Orbit on a 1.9MHz Pentium 4 HP Pavilion computer (with 512 MB of RAM), running Windows XP and Microsoft Instant Messenger (IM). Installation failed twice because of driver problems, possibly from a previous Webcam installation. A quick download from Logitech's Web site fixed the problem.
Detailed Tech Specs
Up to 640x480 pixels
Up to 1280x960 pixels
Up to 30fps (with recommended system)
Mechanical pan-and-tilt feature lets the Webcam physically turn 128 degrees side-to-side (for an almost 180-degree horizontal view), and 54 degrees up-and-down (for an almost 90-degree vertical view)
I was pleased with my IM tests. The microphone was useful for IM chat, and the included face-tracking software let the camera automatically follow a speaker, keeping his or her face centered in the field of view. Although the movement was occasionally choppy, the Orbit has proved to be quite popular during conference meetings.
The Orbit's Auto-zoom technology is another impressive idea:
I can use it to zoom in as much as three times the normal viewing size—great for showing products or even scanning across the car park!
The Orbit's video-camera functionality let me capture 1.3-megapixel images and 640x480 videos. On a final note, the camera's 9" stand lets you raise the camera lens to eye level, meaning that you don’t have to balance the camera on top of your LCD monitor!
The Orbit's street price of $129 seems a little high, considering the availability of plenty of options starting at $30, but the motorized lenses, along with the incredible looks, make the QuickCam Orbit a good buy.
Connected Home Magazine Rating (10 possible)
Ease of Use
Minimum System Requirements: PC
Windows XP, Windows 2000, or Windows Me
Pentium II 400, Celeron, AMD Athlon processor, or higher
64MB of RAM (or minimum OS requirement, whichever is higher)
200 MB of free hard disk space
16-bit color display adapter
Available USB 2.0 or USB 1.1 port
Windows-compatible sound card and speakers (full duplex sound card recommended)
Minimum System Requirements: Mac
Mac OS 10.1.5 or higher
128MB of RAM
Mac OS 10.2 requires Power Mac G3, G4, G4 Cube; iMac; PowerBook G3, G4; iBook; or eMac computer, at least 128MB of physical RAM and a built-in display or a display connected to an Apple-supplied video card.