Tomorrow, HD Technologies will announce the approval of its patent for VC lighting. I spoke with Ben Scruggs, who along with Michael Jarchow spent the last four years developing this technology and securing the patent. Ben was kind enough to give us permission to break this story early and share it with our LDV readers.
The VC industry has made great progress recently on addressing many of the historic issues blocking VC adoption and usage. As a result we have seen dramatic improvements in quality, reliability, ease of use, interoperability, and even affordability. Now that the calls work well, we need to make sure we look our best on camera. Recently, LDV writer Theo Economedes wrote a great article about some of the problems caused by poorly lit videoconferencing. The bottom line is, lighting can have a dramatic effect on your appearance. Vanity aside, when someone doesn’t look trustworthy, the expression is that they “look shady.” There is something to that.
If you use VC regularly, and especially if you video with people on mobile devices, you know that sometimes you simply can’t see the person you are talking to, because their video is too dark. Attempts to remedy the situation, by leaning into whatever lamp or light is in reach, is awkward at best. Ben and Micheal have developed a, now patented, technology to solve this problem in a way that can easily be productized and marketed to a massive user base in the hundreds of millions. Please note, any pictures are of prototypes or conceptual designs. They are looking to partner with an established brand that will work with them to get it right. Licensing is also a possibility, but with the patent freshly granted, it is really too early for them to share the full business roadmap.
There are many potential obstacles to solving the desktop/mobile lighting problem. Everyone in the industry has complained about it and imagined potential solutions, but its a tough puzzle to solve. HD Tech seems to have hit all the pain points. I brought up several when chatting with Ben and he had an answer for all of them. For example…
Light Quality: You can’t just shine a flashlight in someone’s face and expect a natural experience. The light has to be bright enough to make a dramatic difference to someone at the normal focal point for desktop/mobile video (a few feet at most). It also has be the right tone and temperature to make people look natural. This is where the patented technology comes into place. There is real science to it, using a custom designed parabolic reflector and diffuser. The reflector makes sure the light all goes to the right place, and the diffuser provides a natural, complimentary tone using amber wavelengths. Existing market entries (generally lighting for room systems) typically use an elliptical reflector with a simple frosted lens.
Eye Fatigue: In addition to tone, the patented diffuser blends and smooths the light to avoid eye fatigue. Again, try to imagine a normal conversation with a flashlight shining in your eyes.
Product Size: No one wants a clunky device clipped to their tablet, or even desktop monitor. HD Tech’s patent maximizes the light generated, which means they can use small, cool, efficient lights and still get the desired results. Therefore, even their prototypes are slim and unobtrusive. Whether the technology is incorporated into a clip on, or even embedded into the products themselves (are you listening Apple, Samsung, and Logitech?), the lighting solution will not be big enough to displease users.
Battery Drain: By using efficient lights, the device really doesn’t drain a lot of power. Desktop units can be conveniently run off of USB power, and mobile units will last for 5-7 hours of use, which is more than the typical amount of video calls one would make on a phone before getting back to the office. As an added convenience, if the batteries do run out, it can be powered by the phone or tablet itself, without excessively draining their power.
Let’s face a few truths. Whether you are a fan or not, you are going to be on video more and more. It is happening. And whether you like it or not, people judge by appearances. Even more importantly, people make business decisions based on personal appearances. I may not look like Brad Pitt, but I want to make the best of what I got, which means I don’t want to be on camera with bad lighting. I can’t wait to see how this technology is brought to market, and more importantly, to my desktop.