Video conferencing and chatting, be it via Zoom, Skype or social media, has taken the world by storm this past year. And while webcams can do the job, some manufactures decided to take video conferencing to the next level – and that’s exactly what we have here.
The Coolpo AI Huddle Pana is like a video conferencing device that comes straight from the future: it’s a cone that has an array of microphones and a 360-degrees 4K camera, and by using AI, it can automatically detect separate people that sit around it, thus capturing each of them in a separate “frame”.
If you’re in a work-setting where multiple people sit in the same conference room, this will blow your mind. At home, the Pana can still be used in a variety of ways – but the way it works brings up some issues. Want to know if it’s for you? Let’s dig in.
Quick Look – Coolpo AI Huddle Pana
What is it: A portable all-in-one video conferencing device that combines microphones, a speaker, and a 360-degrees 4K camera (but you still need to connect it to a computer and a screen).
Ease of Use
- Automatic person “finder” works like magic
- Video quality is quite good
- Very easy to set up and use
- Built-in speakers are loud and clear
- PC software has some limitations
- Not very useful for one-on-one calls
Features and Specs
- Camera: Panoramic-4K HD Fish-eye camera, 1 / 1.7 inch CMOS, 1200 megapixels image sensor
- Resolution: Up to 3840 x2160 @ 30fps
- Field of View: Horizontal: 360˚ / Vertical: 60˚
- Microphones: 4 “Smart Microphones”, a pick-up range of 4.5 meters
- Connectivity: USB
If you’re looking for a smart video conferencing device that uses AI to capture everyone in the room, this fits the bill perfectly. It’s mostly ideal for set-ups where you have several people around the table, with a big screen (or computer) at the end of the table. It’s not cheap – but use our coupon (VT0D2D8EGENY) for a nice discount.
Table of Contents
Who Is The Coolpo AI Huddle Pana For?
Video chatting when you’re sitting alone in a room is easy. You set up a tiny webcam on the monitor in front of you, and that’s it.
But when you want several people to take part in the call – people who are all sitting in one room (remember when we used to do that? it’s coming back), things get complicated.
With a normal webcam – even if it has a wide lens – everyone would need to sit side-by-side, close together, and hope for the best. That’s both impractical and awkward.
The Coolpo AI Huddle Pana (yes, that’s a mouthful) aims to solve that problem, with a cone that holds a fish-eye camera on its head. With the advanced AI technology, that camera knows who’s talking around the room – and can immediately focus on that person.
That way, the person on the other side of your video call, sees a collection of several “windows”, with each participant (remember – they’re all sitting in the same room) getting his own mini-window. And beneath everything, there’s also a 360˚panoramic view of the whole room – so you can get a sense of everyone in the call.
As mentioned, this is mostly aimed at multiple people who are sitting together in a room. You can, technically, use it for one-on-one video chats, but it won’t be very practical – first because it’s overkill. But also, because the camera and software try real hard to show other people – who won’t be there – so extra windows are taking unneeded space on the screen.
Setting Up The Coolpo AI Huddle Pana
If everything so far sounds a bit complicated – you can take comfort in knowing that set-up of the device is extremely easy, and is almost literally plug-and-play.
In the box, you get the device itself, which looks kind of like a big flask. It has a physical power button, as well as touch-controlled volume and mute buttons (for the speaker in the lower part).
The camera is on the very top, and you also get a rubber cover you can use to block the camera when not in use.
The Pana comes with just two cables – a power cable, and a USB cable for connecting to your desktop computer/laptop. The ports are hidden underneath the device itself, with a USB-A port on that end.
The supplied USB cable is unfortunately too short, especially for a device you need to place in the centre of the room – so you might need to get a separate longer one.
Once I connected the device to my PC, it was recognised instantly, and I didn’t even need to install any drivers. I just loaded Zoom, and the Pana was ready to go (just remember to change the active camera / microphone / speakers, if you were already using a different webcam before).
Recently, Coolpo also released dedicated software for the Pana (both for PC and MAC), which you can use to change some specific settings, as well as easily update the firmware on the device.
While you don’t HAVE to use the software, it’s quite useful, letting you change the number of frames the Pana shows during the video call (plus the ability to remove the panoramic view section if you don’t need it).
You can also change display settings, such as brightness, contrast and hue – which is particularly useful if you’re in a dark room.
The main issue I had with the software, is that you can’t use it WHILE you’re in a video call. So you have to choose your settings beforehand, close (and save) the software, and then start your video call in Zoom/Skype/etc.
Making Video Calls with the Pana
First, it’s worth mentioning what the Pana CAN’T do – it’s can’t be used as a standalone video conferencing device. That is, you can’t just connect it to a screen – you have to connect it to a computer, where you have your video calling software installed.
That being said, everything ELSE is taken care of by the Pana – it contains a built-in camera, a microphone and a speaker, so you don’t have to start messing with different settings for an external microphone or your laptop’s tiny speakers.
Plus, the provided speakers – and the microphones – are quite good. I was able to hear my video-mates through the speaker quite clearly, even in a crowded environment. While it’s not the best speaker out there – it’s certainly sufficient for what it sets out to do.
Now – for the video conferencing itself. Yes, it does feel like magic occasionally, but you also have to remember the use-case this device was built for.
If you’re expecting to use it for one-on-one calls – don’t (unless you’re sitting alone in a conference room). The thing is, because of the way this thing works (and its shape), you can’t place it between you and a monitor – as it’ll both cover the monitor, AND the camera will often pick-up the monitor itself, creating a “window” for it.
So when I tried to do a one-on-one call, the camera kept jumping from one place to the other, getting confused by my screen, or by things it zoomed on in the room for whatever reason (like my big speakers).
However, the Pana works best when you place it on the centre of a desk, with people sitting around it. The screen would then be, ideally, at the end of the desk, or even on the wall above everyone.
When you set it up like that, that’s when the magic starts to happen. Each person in the room will get their own frame (within the main video on the call).
That’s another thing you need to remember – the Pana still sends just one stream out into the video calling software. So you won’t get a separate Zoom/Skype window for each person in the room.
Instead, the caller on the other end will see the usual ONE window, but that window will be divided into several sub-frames, each showing a person who’s sitting in the room (and the wide panoramic view, if you’ve enabled it).
The magical part comes when people start moving around in the room. The Pana can then automatically “move” with them, focusing again on their face. It doesn’t follow you around when you walk, exactly – but it always identifies the fact that you’ve “left” the centre of the frame, so it pans to compensate.
I even tried to fool it a few times – and it always managed to find my face again once I started talking.
If, however, you have more sub-windows set up than people in the room – the Pana will show an “empty” frame of your wall (or any other part of the room). If your screen is close-by, it might even zoom onto that, thinking there’s a person there.
Therefore, it’s best to always go into the Pana’s software (before you start the call), to set up exactly the number of windows/frames you need – according to the number of participants. That way, there won’t be any useless empty windows.
Bottom Line: Is The Coolpo AI Huddle Pana Worth It?
Let’s start with the obvious: this thing is expensive. At a suggested retail price of $799 (around £570 as of this writing), it’s not aimed at people looking to do some video chatting with granny at home.
But if you’re serious about video conferencing – either at a workplace, or even at home (since you work from home with guests/clients that come over, etc.), or if maybe you tend to do a lot of family-wide video calls, with every family member taking part in the call – the Pana can really upgrade your video calls.
And, don’t forget, you can even get a hefty discount – by using our special coupon code, VT0D2D8EGENY at checkout (and there’s free shipping worldwide).
Note: The device was supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.