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Is This Owl the Fix for Crap Video Conferencing?

And it’s pretty cute, admittedly.


Owl Labs, founded by two engineers from iRobot (the company that made the Roomba) and backed by the co-creator of Android, has announced its maiden product: the Meeting Owl ($799). It’s an 11-inch-tall, 2.6-pound, fabric-covered speaker that’s designed to be the ultimate tool for video conferences. The 360-degree speaker also has a 360-degree camera lens that captures 720p HD video, eight built-in microphones for lucid audio and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor. The Owl’s “eyes” are really LEDs that light up to indicate a conference call is in progress. And yes, it looks cute.

The Meeting Owl is designed to sit in the center of meeting tables and capture audio from within a 12-foot diameter, which normally fits between four and eight people. It’s USB powered and works with a variety of video conference platforms, such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype for Business.

The Meeting Owl is easy to set up and comes packed with some cool tricks. During a meeting, the Meeting Owl will show a panoramic view of the room and a closeup of whoever’s talking. If more than more person is talking, a split screen will appear showing each of them. The whole idea is that people viewing the conference call feel more a part of the meeting and less like a flies on the wall.

It may sound expensive for something that’s essentially an upgrade — an admittedly big one — from the laptop camera you’re using right now. If you can chalk it up as a business expense, do that. Meanwhile, if you’re just looking for an audio boost, Pioneer announced a Lightning-powered plug-and-play speaker for conference calls at just $100.

The Meeting Owl is available for preorder now. Expect shipping to start in early July.

Buy Now: $799

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