Vue: A Home Video Network That’s Too Simple

vue_camera copyHave you ever wondered what goes on at your house when you’re not home? Thanks to Avaak’s Vue personal video network, it’s now easy to find out. This $299 kit features wireless video cameras that you can set up almost anywhere and view over the Internet. It’s incredibly easy to use, and the hardware is well-designed.

Avaak says the system is designed for a variety of uses, including keeping an eye on pets or elderly parents; monitoring vacation homes; checking in on latchkey kids; securing a small business; and more. And it’s so easy to set up that anyone can use it. Unfortunately, the web-based surveillance tools are too limited to be a truly useful remote security system; at this point you can only watch live video, though the company says it plans to add recording scheduling soon.

The kit includes two tiny wireless cameras and a wireless gateway that connects to your router. You just turn the battery-powered cameras on, press a button to pair them with the gateway, and you’re good to go. The four included magnetic mounts are so well-designed — they’re the shape of a ball, cut in half — they impressed me with their simplicity. They grab the camera and hold it securely; it really couldn’t be easier.

Once the cameras are in place, you can log onto and create an account, with an identification number from your wireless gateway. Once you’ve created a user name and password, you can access your cameras from any browser that supports Flash. (That means you can’t use the iPhone’s Safari browser, but the company says an iPhone app is coming soon.)

vue_camera_screenThe Vuezone’s Web interface is neatly laid out: Your cameras appear in a window on the left side of the screen, and you can drag them to the main window to play their video feed. The video quality is decent, but varies greatly depending on the lighting in the room. (And these cameras have no microphones, so the feed is video only.) You can change the settings to accommodate for low, normal or bright light, and to a certain extent, this helps. I used the “low light” setting in a room with a dim lamp, and the video appeared nice and bright. But when I tried to use the camera in a darker room, lit only by a nightlight, the video was so dark it was difficult to see — even on the low light setting. This is too bad, because this camera could really appeal to parents who want to see what their little ones are doing in their bedrooms when they’re supposed to be sleeping.

That’s not the only limitation of the Vue network. While the system comes with two cameras — and supports up to 50 (additional cameras are available for $99 each) — you can only see one feed at a time. You can drag all of your cameras into the main window, but only one will play at a time — if you have one camera playing, it will stop automatically if you start another one.

Another limitation: You can only watch live video. You can’t see what happened while you were away — so if someone broke into your house, robbed you, but put everything back in place, you might never even know that they’d been there. You can’t schedule video to record while you’re away from your computer, though Avaak says the feature is coming soon — and it will be a most welcome addition. (You can record video as you’re watching it, but I’m not sure why you’d want to.) And the Vue cameras don’t have any kind of motion detector that would cause them to turn on when something happens in the room, but the company says it is considering adding this to future versions. Scheduled recordings and motion detection would greatly increase the appeal of this product to people looking for a home or small business security system.

Avaak is off to a good start with the Vue personal network; it’s incredibly easy to use. Once the company adds the ability to schedule recordings, it will be far more useful, and able to compete with similar systems, like Logitech’s Indoor Video Security Master System. Until it has those features, though, its appeal is limited.