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Creative's InPerson: The next best thing to being there?

Creative brings relatively inexpensive corporate-quality videoconferencing to your living room. And your hotel room. And your conference room.

Creative InPerson
Creative InPerson Creative Labs

Video phone, videoconferencing--there's really no good vocabulary for discussing video communication over the Net without rendering your audience glazed and confused. Nor are there any glitzy new technologies to get their geek juices flowing. But Creative's doing its darnedest to spark some new life in a product category that never quite took off. And it seems like a pretty good effort, at that, with a product that strives to liberate videoconferencing from the tether of the PC or the conference room.

The company's portable InPerson conferencing system consists of a device that resembles a 1.6 pound, 10-inch laptop, with a VGA-resolution Webcam with a nice wide-angle view, built into the hinge. The hardware sits in your living room, hotel room, or any other room, running off the two-hour capacity battery or AC. The H.264-compressed video can stream on the 7-inch wide-screen LCD, or you can hook it up to your TV for a more life-size conversation. It connects to the Net via Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet, going through Creative's servers for the video and VoIP audio (it adheres to the SIP telephony standard). Creative claims it has very good low-light performance (which seemed to be true when I took a brief look at it), as well as above-average audio quality. When not in use, you can stick an SD card in the slot and use it as a really expensive photo frame.

That's really the rub: it seems quite pricey to me. The device itself costs $699.95, and there's a $10 per month subscription fee for the Web service. On the plus side, it doesn't require another InPerson on the other end; any old Webcam will do.

Can Creative InPerson save your foundering long-distance relationship? Probably not. But it has the potential to save you some money and time on the extra travel.