Those who may have been intrigued by news of Skype video calling features being added to some of the latest advanced HDTVs can relax in the knowledge that they can now get that Jetsons experience today without buying a whole new set.
Privately held Tely Labs, based in Menlo Park, Calif., is selling a product it calls TelyHD that offers as close to a plug-and-play experience as you are likely to find in an aftermarket TV video cam. What’s more, it places all of the Skype connectivity software and circuitry in the device, so it’s not necessary to buy an expensive new flat-panel TV with Skype built in.
Our product review found the TelyHD ($249 suggested retail) to be very quick and intuitively easy to install, assuming you already have a Wi-Fi or Ethernet network set up and within range of the TV set.
The TelyHD camera measures 2.7 inches by 10.8 inches by 2.9 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.1 ounces. Depending on the thickness of your TV panel, the camera can perch atop the set, or be placed on a nearby tabletop or tripod.
To get started a user simply plugs the TelyHD into the wall outlet and connects the supplied HDMI cable to the device and the TV input. When the set is tuned to the appropriate source input, an onscreen menu appears to walk the user through the process of aiming and framing the camera and connecting the TelyHD to the in-home broadband network.
The TelyHD camera can pivot up and down but doesn’t pan. Point must be down by hand.
In the case of a setting up a Wi-Fi connection, a remote control and software keypad are supplied for data input.
The user selects the appropriate detected network when it appears on screen, and keys in the security password (assuming the network has WEP security or some other system).
Once the connection to the network is established, a new screen appears to walk the user through the process of setting up a Skype account for the first time, or logging in to a previously established one.
Voila. A call is ready to be made.
It couldn’t be easier - almost. Some users might encounter a few bumps in road.
For instance, if the TV only has one or two HDMI inputs a Blu-ray Disc player, an IPTV set-top box or some other device already in use, there is no HDMI passthrough on the TelyHD. So any previously connected devices will have to be disconnected first before the TelyHD can be used. This can be a pain if you use the Blu-ray player and other component a lot.
As the name implies, the TelyHD offers a high-definition image - assuming the network and broadband connection are adequate to support the upload and download volume. If not, TelyHD will automatically step-down the resolution to accommodate the most efficient throughput.
The front of the camera has an indicator light and button for answering calls. This will signal the user to an incoming call, even when watching something else on the screen.
If the display isn’t set to the camera’s input, the light on the TelyHD will flash and speakers on the side will ring with the Skype call tone, alerting the user to change inputs and accept the call.
A welcome feature on the device is a sliding door over the lens that ensures visual privacy when the camera is not in use. (No need in giving Big Brother or other prying eyes a helping hand in invading your home - unless you’re into that kind of thing).
The TelyHD is based on the Android OS platform and uses an Nvidia Tegra 2 Dual-Core ARM A9 processor. Tely Labs said the foundation provides an entertainment platform designed for the additional applications both current and future.
When both parties are using a TelyHD device, they have the ability to share digital photos during a live call, and also have access to a voicemail-like feature.
In addition to a mini-HDMI output, the back of TelyHD includes an Ethernet port, a USB port, MiniUSB port and an SD card slot.
On-screen graphics are similar to those Skype uses for PCs, including the same contact and status icons.
TelyHD is designed to work only with the Skype service. It will not work with similar services such as Google Talk or Biscotti, but TelyHD users can place calls to any Skype PC webcam or smartphone running a Skype app.
Clearly, video calling is the next big trend in Internet telephony. Tely Labs cited Skype user data indicating 43 percent of all Skype-to-Skype call minutes in the first half of 2011 were video calls.
At peak times, approximately 30 million concurrent users are logged into Skype at any given time (as of March 2011).
TelyHD is currently available through Amazon.com, Skype.com and Tely.com, but Tely Labs is exploring relationships with distributors and brick-and-mortar retailers. Major accounts can be sold direct, the company said. Interested parties can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.