To better see everyone, the Series One kits come with either a regular Smart Camera or the “extra large” version that goes up to 4K resolution. It uses a 20.3-megapixel sensor with 4.3x optical zoom and offers digital pan, tilt and zoom movements due to that higher resolution. Google also uses similar software to the Nest Hub Max here by offering automatic participant framing. It works with rooms with up to 10 to 18 people
When there’s only one person in a big room, they can use the one-touch auto zoom option on the control panel so callers can better see them. As other people join the meeting, the smart camera will zoom out to include them in the frame. Google said its system recognizes the number of people in the room “based on physical bodies and other attributes and sound,” and that it doesn’t use face scanning. also said that each kit can “anonymously sense the number of participants in the meeting to help monitor room utilization and maintain safety protocols.”
This means the cameras can help keep track of how many people are in a room, and group product manager TJ Varghese said in a briefing that this could be extended further to “any new types of requirements, whether it be social distancing requirements etc.”
Varghese also said the company is aware of issues in cameras rendering darker skintones. “I think this is something that the industry is finally acknowledged and is accepting and we are actively working with partners to develop algorithms that can do this,” he said. The company has a roadmap in place that will look at making “constant improvements on lighting and processing for low light, processing of HDR etc.” We’ll learn more in the coming months, Varghese said, adding that “our goal as Google is to effectively develop and represent darker skin tones in a much better way than traditionally cameras have.”
The remaining pieces of the kits are fairly straightforward. The 10.1-inch touchscreen control panel looks a lot like the Nest Hub Max, while the mic pods are similar to the pucks we already seen in many offices, except for the fabric covering that’s shown up in Google’s other smart home devices. In fact, all the Series One products feature the same rounded corners and fabric that’s prevalent in other Google hardware. The controllers (both touchscreen and simple handheld remote) will support voice control so you can dial into a meeting by asking Assistant to connect you.
Two color options will be available for the entire series — charcoal and chalk — and the small room kit will cost $2,699. Google said it designed Series One to be “an investment for the long haul” and they’re expected to last at least five years. While Lenovo is a launch partner for the new gear, Google also said it might have other products with different hardware makers for the Series in the future. Though the company has partnered with the likes of ASUS and Lenovo on meeting room hardware in the past, the Series One appears to be a concerted effort at making its own devices with well-integrated Google software.