One great new feature added to 2011 BRAVIA devices (TV, Blu-ray players, etc) is the embedded Skype application.
The camera (CMU-BR100) used for Skype isn’t built into the television, and is sold separately. You can video call anyone with Skype, even on mobile devices, or make voice calls while watching TV.
It’s been puzzling as to why it took Sony so long to launch video chat for their TVs, as Samsung and other manufacturers launched Skype for their sets back at CES 2010.
We spent some time with Skype for BRAVIA at CES 2011, and our impressions are mixed. The version we saw was still in prototype form, but seemed very close to the final product.
The CMU-BR100 camera module itself is very small, and the shape somewhat reminds me of the Microsoft Kinect. It is definitely far smaller and lighter than the Kinect, though. Video quality maxes out at 720p resolution, which is on par with the competition. The camera has an array of four microphones as well. There is a flap at the bottom that is also made out of rubber, which I assume helps prevent the camera from slipping off smooth surfaces.
The actual video quality of Skype for BRAVIA was mediocre, and didn’t even feel like 720p. There was problems with sharpness and also jagged blocks were evident during movement. To be fair, though, I must remind you the demo I witnessed was a prototype. There’s also the fact that in Las Vegas during CES, and nearly all Internet connections are completely overloaded so that also had a significant impact on quality. I assume the final version, on a good broadband connection, will look and feel like 720p quality.
We will be following up with Sony to see what the price of the CMU-BR100 will be and if the camera is backwards compatible with 2010 BRAVIA devices.
We shot many pictures of the service in action, including: contact list, profile view, on-screen call notification, video call interface, tools menu, and several settings menus.