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Saturday, Jun 19, 2021

This custom webcam system lets you take Zoom calls on your TV from your couch

Crestron, which offers services to help people customize their smart homes, has teamed up with Logitech and Zoom to make an at-home video conferencing setup using technology you’d typically find in an office conference room.
The setup could, for example, let you use your living room TV and a conference room-quality video camera to take Zoom meetings while reclining on your couch instead of being hunched over a laptop. That could be a much more comfortable way to take meetings or host group calls with family and friends while at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s called Crestron HomeTime
“We found that there were a lot of situations where people have more than one person, where you’re doing happy hours or group calls, where you really want to sit back and be more in the living room setting as opposed to sitting at your desk,” said Scott Wharton, the vice president and general manager of Logitech’s Video Collaboration group, in an interview with The Verge earlier this week.

The setup, called Crestron HomeTime, doesn’t require a specialized TV — it should work with any TV with an HDMI port. And for the camera, HomeTime uses Logitech’s 4K MeetUp camera, which has a wide-angle lens, its own onboard speaker system, and a beamforming microphone array to help pick up voices from across a room. HomeTime also takes advantage of the Zoom Rooms software, which is typically used in enterprises to help start and manage Zoom calls in conference rooms.

John Clancy, Crestron’s vice president of the company’s residential services, gave me a virtual demo of a HomeTime setup in his home, and it seemed slick. Even though Clancy was sitting on a couch that he said was 18 feet away from the camera, his picture and audio were clear, and he was also able to zoom in on himself using his Crestron remote. You’ll be able to start Zoom meetings using your HomeTime setup right from the remote or using the Zoom Rooms app.

If you want to get HomeTime, however, you should know that it’s a custom solution that you can only get through Crestron. And it’s very pricey — the standard cost for a single-room setup is an eye-watering $6,100, and tacking on additional rooms costs $3,100 each, according to the company.

If you’re not looking to drop that much cash for something like this, you could set up a similar system like this with a webcam and a laptop plugged into a TV over HDMI. That likely wouldn’t be quite as elegant as Crestron’s custom setup, but it would probably cost a lot less.

Crestron says HomeTime will be available on Monday, June 1st.

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