How useful is iPad’s Center Stage in today’s hybrid workflow?

Apple’s autonomous Center Stage feature uses a larger field-of-view on the 9th Gen iPad’s front camera and the ML capabilities of the A13 Bionic chipset to recognise and keep users centered in the frame

Published - February 26, 2022 01:42 pm IST

iPad OS 15 working with Center Stage on Zoom app

iPad OS 15 working with Center Stage on Zoom app | Photo Credit: Zoom

We may have thought the biggest disruption to our professional lives would be engaging more with virtual mediums, but as the world slowly adapts to a situation where people shift between the office and home, the greatest disruption proves to be the hybrid work model.

Flexible work is here to stay and not just in the IT sector but also across the media and creative industries where virtual meetings are more dynamic and movement-heavy for presentations and pitches, rather than being a sit-down affair. When Apple announced Center Stage for its newer iPad range of 2021 — iPad Pro with M1 and 9th Gen iPad — the timing was apt.

The new iPads come with iPad OS 15, optimised for productivity and seamless connectivity with other gadgets within the ecosystem. The overhaul in the operating system for tablets finally introduced widgets such as a world clock, weather updates, a calendar and battery monitoring of the device and of connected gadgets such as Pencil (1st Gen) and any connected earphones/headphones.

How does Center Stage work?

The 9th Gen iPad’s 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera has a 122-degree field-of-view and ƒ/2.4 aperture. It can also capture up to 1080p HD video at 25 frames per second, 30 frames per second, or 60 frames per second for a fairly fluid display. This camera is a lot better than the camera on MacBook and does not distort the light nor the shape of the subject.

Teamed with the Neural Engine in the A13 Bionic chipset present in the iPhone 13 series, this camera enables Center Stage. Using the Neural Engine, Center Stage can focus on people in the camera’s ultrawide field of view. It accordingly zooms, pans, and crops the video to frame the subject as they move around or as more people join the frame.

We would assume that Apple would restrict this feature to its ecosystem. However, FaceTime is not placed by its users as the app for business calls. But lo-and-behold, you can leverage Center Stage across other video call applications such as Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Meet, Zoom and Cisco Webex, and across social and creative apps such as Instagram. However, you have to grant access to the necessary apps in order to activate Center Stage. Alternatively, users can enable or disable Center Stage in Control Center.

So, is it helpful?

Center Stage is handy for those who have meetings that require a lot of movement, such as a presentation. Autonomous in its nature, it also cancels out the annoying task of running back and forth between your device and the subject discussed and those I was in a meeting with also found the experience pleasant as they did not have to see me jerking the camera around and thus making them dizzy or nauseous. Both parties could focus more on the task at hand without any interruptions.

I did notice a slight heating issue as well as a marginal increase in battery consumption while using Center Stage so I usually plugged in the iPad during a long meeting. Luckily, those with an iPad that has iPad OS 15 or later can leverage Center Stage: iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th Gen), iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd Gen), iPad (9th Gen), and iPad mini (6th Gen).

The iPad (9th Gen) starts at ₹30,900 for the Wi-Fi models while Wi-Fi + Cellular models start at ₹42,900. Available at Apple’s official online store and at third-party authorised resellers.

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