Bose VideoBar VB1 – Review

Image from Bose’s website – that is not my arm

We have a pretty nice conference room at my school and it gets a lot of use too. It has a great 80″ display, nice tables with power built into them and comfortable chairs. We also have integrated speakers in the ceiling, lots of natural light and easy connections to the display. There is one thing that it has always been missing and that is a good video conference option.

We have tried to bring in a VOIP phone but unless you were sitting right next to it, you couldn’t hear the person. We tried hooking up a smartphone to the speakers with an adapter, but that required someone to sit at the front and they would always have difficulty hearing people in the back of the room or if a group of people were talking it was difficult to hear any of them clearly, then we tried hooking up a computer and run a Zoom meeting. The problem was the camera was not a wide angle camera and so it only captured 65% of the room which usually means we sit a bit far from the camera or we reposition the tables. Then the microphone on the laptop was difficult to hear, even if there were only 8-10 feet away especially if they turned their head away from the mic.

We reached out to some vendors and one recommended we try out the Bose Videobar VB1 (that’s quite the name I know). We had a demo unit for two weeks and it worked very well.

Price

This solution isn’t cheap. It runs around $1200, but it just may be worth it. There are no licensesyou need to pay for or extra software or driviers that area needed. It is truly plug-in-play meaning that you can pull it out of the box, connect it to a computer and you’re good to go. It comes with a very nic and robust stand. The stand will allow you to adjust the camera up or down a little which is nice and the stand is very stable.

There is an optional mounting kit that you can purchase. This will let you mount it to the back of a TV or to a wall. It can be mounted above or below the screen. The VB1 doesn’t care – it’ll give you a good picture regardless.

Features

This thing will display a 4K image. Really not too necessary for Zoom or any video conferencing but it’s good to know that it is not some grainy 720p image that a lot of laptops offer. Not only that but it is a wide angle lens. It will show 123° which means it will capture not just to the left and right side of most any room, it will also capture those people who may be sitting close to it.

While the picture is nice, it’s the sound that is fantastic. The Bose produces very good sound for video conferencing. Bose makes some nice sounding equipment and this has been tuned specifically for voices, so they come through very clear and despite it’s smallish size, the VB1 produces enough sound to easily fill our conference room that is over 20 feet long and 13 feet wide (approximately 6m x 4m). In fact, I like the voices out of the Bose VB1 as opposed to our ceiling speakers.

Finally there are the many, many microphones. There are 8 beam steering microphones in fact. That means you can limit the field of what they record. For example if there is a coffee machine running in the back of the room behind everyone, you can limit the range of the microphones so it will nearly remove that sound. It’s pretty neat.

The microphones work wonders. You can be anywhere in our conference room and it all sounds the same. No need to shout or even raise your voice to be heard. All one has to do is talk in a normal volume. While testing it out, I had to remind people that raising their is not necessary and it will just sound like you are yelling at them.

Using it

Pull it out of the box and plug it in. It’s pretty simple really. It has needs its own power (as one would expect) and you can connect it directly to a display, but what we do, is to connect it to a Mac Mini (any computer would work) and then connect the Mac Mini to the display. We connect it our computer via USB-C which makes it very simple. Here it is mounted above our display.

It looks like it is part of the TV – ignore those cables though 🙂

Once it has power, it turns on and then you can select it as the webcam for Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, WebEx, whatever you use. It works great.

There is a remote that will allow you to zoom in and move the camera, and it works well, but it’s not too necessary. There is also a feature called Autoframing that will automatically zoom to include all participants. The problem is if people come in and out or move during a presentation. It seems pretty slow.

There is software you can download and use. On an Intel Mac it had no problem. On an M1 Mac it is unusable – period. It is incredibly slow and you constantly get the beachball of death. You really don’t need it though.

On Zoom (not sure about Skype, Teams, Google Meet or others) I had to tell Zoom to use an HD image. If not, the image looked pretty bad.

Sample

Here is a quick recording. You can see how much the camera picks up and how well the mics work. One thing to note is that this recording is from Zoom. It was compressed to shrink its size down. The actual video quality of the VB1 is much higher than you see here. The sound is captured from the Bose as well.

As you can see and hear, the Bose does a good job.

Conclusion

It is pricy but it certainly seems worth it. The vendor had said that there are some schools who are mounting it on interactive TV’s and putting the whole thing on a cart making it very portable. I am not sure that is a good fit for our school, but this does fill a need we have had.

Episode 181 – Zoom

Tony and Patrick are back talking about distance learning, recommendations about video conferencing (including Zoom) and a lot more. Please subscribe to our podcast from Apple our searching for us on your favorite podcasting app.

  1. Happy Easter/Spring Break
  2. Zoom
    1. Zoombombing
    2. Zoom and privacy
    3. Zoom alternative
      1. Microsoft Teams
      2. Google Meet
      3. Skype
    4. Recommendations
      1. Zoom Basic (non-compliance) vs. Zoom K-12 (FERPA, COPPA, HIPPA compliant)
  3. Cybersecurity Part 5 – Where Did Your Resources
    1. https://itbabble.com/2020/04/12/cybersecurity-part-5-where-did-you-put-your-resources/
  4. Graduation 2020?
    1. July in person graduation
    2. What does a virtual graduation look like?
      1. Not popular
      2. Not a good product
      3. Think about music, time, speeches

Download this episode HERE

How to Help Your Dude Named Ben

If you are not aware, “A Dude Named Ben” refers to the generic and often ignored systems administrators who work at/in organizations.

When the IRS lost all their emails, they claimed total ignorance, and had no idea who their tech people were. This video is entertaining and can explain the origin or the term, but has very little bearing on this post. Enough background! Let’s get into it.

Every school has at least one “Dude Named Ben”. I often find in times of crisis, such as massive hardware failures, Technology Directors and School Administrators do not know how to support the process and procedures needed to literally save critical technology infrastructure.

In many situations, the school administration and the head of technology do not have the professional experience required to deeply understand infrastructure, therefore, they avoid managing or being directly involved in situations related to critical infrastructure.

The fact is a good manager or leader can always help a person who is working on a tight timeline and is highly stressed, and often feeling totally isolated with the problem. Here are some simple steps to take to assist any Dude Named Ben, without getting in the way.

Make the Timeline and Targets

Unless the situation is dangerous or hazardous, the first thing that should be done after the briefing is to set the timeline and targets. Many people want to just start working, this is not a good idea. People need to talk out problems. Most people relate well to time and urgency.

  • Start by asking what steps have to be taken to get the status quo back.
  • Then ask what needs to be done to determine what caused the problem and prevent it from happening again.
  • Then start inquiring how long each step should take, in a normal situation.

Now there is a set of goals and a general understanding of how long it should take to complete them all. If time is actually lacking, then start asking the tough questions such as, “Which of these steps could we skip, and be operation but not perfectly operational by our deadline?”

This is where leadership matters. This is where ownership of the consequence can shift, and the system administrator(s) can work and feel supported. There is always a chance of failure, and people working in fear are not going to work as well as someone who is being supported by leadership. Also, this process builds confidence. When administrators take time to listen and understand, the barriers come down and an honest explanation and list of issues will surface.

Set Some Rules for Health

Yes, I know how it sounds, but it is important. If you have a team that must pull a 12 hour plus shift, or work in some adverse conditions, then make a plan to keep people healthy. Provide food, drinks, and mandatory breaks. Set points where everyone steps away from the problem, reviews the targets and timeline and reflect on the work. This is a great time to make adjustments and reconsider some priorities.

A manager or leader can control and manage all of these things for the team that is handling the problem(s). It is one less thing the team has to worry about, and they will appreciate it. Odds are, the problem will be more complex than it seemed initially. So having a team that is willing to go that extra mile without being asked will make all the difference.

This is an Opportunity, so Seize it

When things break, and have to be rebuilt, it is an opportunity to make improvements.
It is critical to know why the failure happened, and to mandate that steps be taken to prevent it, not to fix it. Fixing can imply that the old system needs to be patched and kickstarted back to life, only to once again fail.

Seizing the opportunity could cost some more time, but the benefits often outweigh the loss of time. Identify those who will suffer the most for the lack of the resource(s). Explain the problem, and that the idea is not to fix but to expand and improve. Use the word opportunity often, and get the stakeholders to agree.

Your Dude Named Ben is a person. Remember that. If you can form and manage teams, you can help in times of crisis. Trust me, it is not fun being that guy -sitting alone- and knowing everyone is waiting for you to pull-off a miracle.

 

Tony DePrato

www.tonydeprato.com