Before they were built-into nearly every desktop and laptop on the market, webcams were sold as standalone units, and were pretty innovative peripheral devices. With the ubiquity of built-in webcams, innovation in the space has slowed.
With all that said, a $200 standalone webcam seems like a crazy thing to put into the computing market in 2016—but that's exactly what gaming company Razer just did. At the 2016 CES in Las Vegas, Razer unveiled the Stargazer, what it's called the world's "most advanced webcam."
Justifying that price point will be tricky, but the Stargazer has quite a few unique upgrades over a run-of-the-mill webcam. First off, it captures streaming video in 60FPS at 720p, which stands pretty far above what you'll commonly see in basic webcams.
The Stargazer requires use of a Windows 10 machine with a USB 3.0 port and sixth-gen Intel Core processor, and it is powered by Intel's RealSense SR300. At its max, it can capture 1080p HD video and it includes a dual-array mic with automatic noise canceling.
The higher video quality makes it a worthy investment for remote workers who find themselves on daily video calls. Also the noise-cancelling mic is great for filtering out the weird home noises—such as dogs barking or doorbells ringing—that often make their way into a call.
Perhaps the most unique feature is the camera's dynamic background removal—which provides green screen-like capabilities without the use of an actual green screen. Using the RealSense technology and 3D scanning, the Stargazer can separate your image from the background. This feature can be used with OBS, Skype, Oovoo, XSplit, IR Facerig, QQ and Razer Cortex.
Because it can be used with Skype, the background removal feature will provide some value to business users, but its main value add is for professional vloggers or game streaming pros. For example, if you use OBS to broadcast to Twitch, you can place a stream of your camera capture in the corner of the screen, with the background omitted,without using a green screen and going through a long process.
The Razer Stargazer also provides facial and gesture recognition, which can add another layer of security or usability to your Windows 10 device. If you use the Stargazer in conjunction with the Windows Hello feature, you can login using facial recognition by staring at the camera. Also, the gesture recognition means that you can set up Minority Report-esque hand and finger motions to move between apps and processes.
Razer is a gaming company, so it's likely marketing the Stargazer heavily to gamers. But, if the price can be justified by business users, I think we'll likely see this camera popping up in some offices and conference rooms as well.
The Razer Stargazer is slated for public availability in Q2 of 2016.
- Photos: The many angles of 360 cameras (TechRepublic)
- Kodak Pixpro SP360 Action Cam review: Immersion lite for brands diving into 360 video (TechRepublic)
- Nokia launches OZO, a $60,000 camera for live, HD 360 streaming in virtual reality (TechRepublic)
- Razer purchases Ouya software assets to bolster Android gaming effort (ZDNet)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.