The Veo Wireless Observer is a $300 pan-and-tilt camera that can stream live video and audio across a local area network or the Internet--without a computer.
The camera's oblong, UFO-shaped head rests on a rounded stand with a servo-controlled motor for panning and tilting. The Observer can sit on any flat surface, or you can wall-mount it with the included plastic bracket. Veo also threw in a specialized jack for connecting an optional motion detector, which is available separately for $30.
The bundled setup software was fairly straightforward, though we would have preferred a user-friendly USB connection to the old-fashioned nine-pin serial connector, which, for good reason, has all but disappeared from modern PCs. Once you've input the Observer's wireless settings (IP address and WEP password), placed the unit within range of a wireless-network access point, and plugged it into an AC power outlet, the camera is ready to operate independently of a PC. Security-conscious users can also choose multiple usernames and passwords to supplement the network's WEP security key. Even with our old NetGear router, we needed just a couple of minutes to enter everything necessary for accessing the Observer from any Internet-connected PC.
You can toggle video resolution between 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120, and the camera features a 2X digital zoom. The image is acceptably sharp, but the frame rate tops out at a less than optimal 10 frames per second. The adjustable brightness control helps with low-light shooting. The streaming audio, however, isn't worthy of even bad AM radio.
The Observer's greatest strength is its easy-to-use remote interface. When you access the camera's IP address from any computer on the network, Internet Explorer automatically installs an ActiveX plug-in that provides you with streaming video and a simple, straightforward point-and-click control panel. From there, you can adjust the 120-degree horizontal pan and the 60-degree vertical tilt, as well as record AVI videos and take serviceable JPEG snapshots. A separate, more-robust Observer Studio client is also included, as is support for up to four cameras on the same network.
If you're looking for flexible placement options, remote-controlled movement, PC-free operation, and easy access from anywhere on the Internet, the Wireless Observer fits the bill. You may also want to consider similar wireless products from D-Link and Hawking Technologies, and if you have a wired network, check out Veo's Ethernet Observer, which is nearly identical to its wireless counterpart and costs $100 less.