FaceVsion – a spin-off company from Quanta Computer, an ODM and OEM manufacturer for premium brand companies such as Apple – has launched a high-definition webcam that makes use of the Skype HD protocol.
The £89 inc VAT FaceVsion TouchCam N1 is a 720p HD video camera that supports high-definition video-calling in both directions. A minimum upload and download connection rate of 1Mbps is usually required for the HD video stream, but FaceVsion offers its own compression algorithm that allows the less generous bandwidth of many UK broadband connections to take advantage of the higher quality video streaming service. Connection rates of as low as 600KB or even 500KB can be used to deliver HD Skype video calls, FaceVsion told PC Advisor.
When a webcam session is first established, the Skype service over which the HD video streaming takes place is audio only. This is because it takes a couple of minutes for the Skype service to establish that sufficient bandwidth is available to carry the video stream. The logic is that it’s better to offer a VGA-only stream than a garbled, juddery one at the higher-definition rate.
Face Vsion says that while other HD video web cameras exist, most offer only an HD representation of what’s on the local users’ screen, rather than bouncing HD footage in both directions. As well as improved detail, the 720p video footage we were shown in our live demonstration reproduced colour more faithfully. The TouchCam N1 was also shown to have a wider field of vision than rival webcams from Logitech and Microsoft – 78 degrees rather a more standard 50 degrees or so. The benefit here is that more people can comfortably fit in the frame, making the FaceVsion webcam useful for small video-conferencing group scenarios.
The Face Vsion TouchCam N1 works with Skype software version 4.2 and above and uses the H.264 video codec. It can be used with an instant-messaging or VoIP client at VGA video quality. As yet Skype and Chinese VoIP market-leader QQ are the only two to support two-way HD video over broadband.
The Face Vsion TouchCam N1 is set to go onsale in the UK in late August. Individual webcams will cost £89 each. Since two webcams are required for two-way HD video conferencing, FaceVsion says it’s possible value packs containing two web cameras will be offered.
A chip inside the TouchCam N1 handles some of the video-processing duties, taking the strain from the laptop it's being used on and ensuring the battery doesn't drain
FaceVsion's webcam works on MacBooks and Linux laptops as well as Windows machines