Creative's booth at CES this year was as large and in-charge as last year, and it held some exciting new products. The most talked about, and our personal favourite, was the new InPerson portable video-conferencing system. It's marketed as something of a tool for businesses: execs can chinwag and show off their latest diagrams and chest hair patterns to each other via the Web tubes. But we don't care about those guys. Our application for this is far more interesting.
InPerson could be the ideal way for couples, families and friends separated by distance to hook up without the need for a computer. Yes, video-calling is a piece of cake with some free software and a webcam, and most decent laptops have these features built-in as standard. But this little gizmo will cost about £60 when it's released in the second half of this year in the U of K -- and its painfully simple operation and cute form factor make it an ideal alternative to an expensive laptop or sitting up straight at a desk to use a PC.
It's got a VGA camera plonked in the middle that'll rotate to point at wherever -- or towards whatever -- you want to broadcast to your hunny. There's a speaker and microphone built-in, but mic and headphone sockets sit on the side if you want to use a headset.
A monthly fee is required to use the service (we're told around £5) but the first year of use comes free. Up to four people can be on a conference at once, and the H.264-powered video compression gives decent image quality -- itself capable of being outputted to a TV via composite cable -- over as little as a 256Kbps Web connection. Considering how easily this system could work using P2P technology, a monthly charge may quite rightly put off customers.
But if your friend doesn't want to buy an InPerson, they can use an ordinary microphone and webcam on a PC or laptop. They just need to visit a special Web site. A little plugin is installed to their Web browser giving them a compatible conferencing experience without messing with hardware or software drivers.
All in all, pretty neat, if basic: there's no built-in memory for songs or videos, or any ability to record chats. But it will work over Ethernet or Wi-Fi and, after playing with it today, we're fairly impressed, especially considering its price. Expect more news on InPerson in the coming months as it makes it's way to our shores. Click through for more from Creative.