May 29, 2022

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Dell’s ‘Concept Pari’ Is a Webcam You Can Mount in the Middle of Your Screen

Dell showed off a host of future-looking PC and workspace concepts at its preview event for CES 2022. (Check out our first look at “Concept Luna,” a new paradigm for recyclable and upgradable laptops.) News of the real-world products will have to wait for the new year, but one of the most intriguing unveiled ahead of the show is a moveable webcam prototype, dubbed “Concept Pari.”

Webcams, of course, have become sudden hardware superstars during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many millions of folks now working at home and spending their days (and, sometimes, nights) communicating remotely over voice and video calls. Webcam technology and form factor, though, haven’t changed much. Here and there, manufacturers (especially of laptops) have raised the resolutions of webcam sensors, but webcam designs have remained mostly the same.

Enter Concept Pari, a cylindrical, moveable wireless webcam. Its killer feature: With certain supported monitors, the body of the cam can stick directly onto your monitor’s display, so you can stare straight through the onscreen image into the eyes of the other party or parties. We know, we know: That camera placement sounds obstructive, and you may question the point of it all. But a live demo convinced us that it’s a pretty neat idea.


A Webcam That Makes Eye Contact Easy

Let’s back up first. Concept Pari is not a for-sale product at this stage, just a prototype, though one that looks much closer to reality than most other concepts we typically see at a given CES. The camera body, as designed, can sit in a charging dock/mounting cradle on top of your monitor, positioned like a normal webcam. But you can lift away the lens housing, a small cylinder, with ease. It’s a 1080p camera with integrated mics, and it weighs just an ounce. And it’s totally wireless, sending its 1080p feed over Wi-Fi.

Dell Concept Pari

The butt end of the camera (the one opposite the lens) is magnetic, and (as long as the monitor allows) can be attached to the display directly. This way, if you’re in a video call, you can reposition the lens on the display right next to the (virtual) face of the person you’re speaking to.

Dell Concept Pari

Doing this goes a long way toward looking like you’re maintaining eye contact when you look at the face of the person you’re talking to. Yes, the camera module can slightly block your view of a small part of the screen, but the Concept Pari cam is pretty small, and in a video call, we gamble that much, if not most, screen space is likely empty background. You can position the Pari camera where it makes the most sense onscreen, to approximate looking the other person in the eye as you’re watching them speak.

Everyone who has ever done a video call knows that looking at the person you’re talking to means staring at the monitor, with the actual camera lens several inches above your eyes. (This is even more pronounced on large monitors and with desktop PCs, versus with laptop webcams.) Looking into the camera lens can counteract this, but then you’re looking away from the screen and missing facial expressions and cues as the other party talks, which isn’t normal for conversations. That’s a small thing, perhaps, and will bother some users more than others. Pari is a simple solution.


Pari on Your Screen, or in a Stand

The Pari camera device can be charged and kept in the monitor-top dock/cradle, which is USB-C powered and charges the camera wirelessly when it’s docked. You can also flip the camera cylinder around backward when not in use, so the lens is facing the rear of the cradle, for privacy.

Dell also showed off a small vertical desk stand, so you can hang the camera facing down at your desk. If you need to show off, say, physical paperwork, a product, or drawings, you can grab the camera, place it on this stand, and show off your items with two hands at an ideal angle, while the camera remains steady.

Dell Concept Pari

It’s easy to imagine the usage cases, and if you’re skeptical of placing a camera right on your screen, where it might block a bit of your view, know that it blends in during a call once you place it. The difference in camera angle between being in the center of monitor, and many inches above that point, is large.

The big question we had was about using Concept Pari’s adhering magnets on or near your display. (That sounds like something you’ve probably been told to avoid!) We asked Dell about this, and modern LCD monitors are not susceptible to distortion or damage like old CRTs are, with magnets this weak, the reps assured us.

That said: Yes, the monitor itself would also have to be compatible with Concept Pari, which really means having a metal backplate behind the display panel across the whole expanse for the camera to magnetize to. The monitor Dell was using for the demo worked, of course, but Dell reps noted that any implementation of Pari would have to apply such a build to a whole range of monitors for maximum versatility.

Dell Concept Pari

Making the camera connect to a range of non-Dell monitors would be a much more difficult (perhaps impossible) ask. Even in Pari’s theoretical form, the Dell representatives stated it was much more likely the camera would chiefly be compatible with Dell products. That limits the use cases somewhat, though if the device were mass-purchased for a business, it would be easy enough to arrange to order compatible Dell monitors, too.

We may or may not see Concept Pari out there in the real world some day, but for now it remains an intriguing prototype. Check out the rest of our CES 2022 coverage, from futuristic concepts to new product announcements.

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