Sep 192017

Due to the size and arrangement of the rooms in our new house, we realized we need a way to communicate room-to-room that didn’t involve shouting at each other. Since we don’t all have a phone on us all the time, we decided an intercom is just the ticket.

After experimenting a while with using WebRTC to make intercom software for tablets we could wall-mount, we decided to get a limited number of Nucleus intercom and see if we like them. So we now have then on place, and while they’re pretty nifty, I have several frustrations and disappointments. I’ll share a few here.

  • There’s an app that lets you call intercoms from mobile devices, but they can’t call each other.
  • While there’s a “broadcast all” button to make an announcement through all intercom units, you can’t include mobile devices in the broadcast. These two items preclude using spare tablets as extra intercoms.
  • More frustratingly, there’s no way to broadcast to a single intercom. I want to be able to announce to my daughter when her door is closed and she’s not yet fully awake that she’s running late for school.
  • It’s nifty that you can have remote intercom stations located on other networks (at Grandma’s house, for example), but if you don’t have any, the “Remote” tab in the main UI shouldn’t exist. It’s too easy to accidentally swipe your main station list away, and this could confuse younger (or older) household members. Same goes if there are no local stations, for that matter.
  • You can’t customize the ringtone.
  • You should be able to control the volume level of calls, engines, and Alex’s voice individually.
  • Each station is represented by a name and a small photo. It needs a way to set station photos to pictures taken on other devices; using the built-in camera for this is an exercise in frustration resulting in hideous icons.
  • Each station on the menu of intercoms has a big box but you have to tap a much smaller area to start a call. Instead, the whole thing should start a video call, with a smaller button to do audio instead.
  • In addition to the above, a preference for whether audio or video calls are the default would be nice to have.
  • There’s no way in the UI to answer a video call request with “I’ll talk but audio only.”
  • I’d love to have more ability to customize the display. Show family calendars and chore lists. Stuff like that. Basically, it’d be awesome to run apps or even little applets on it! This alone could turn this into a much better device.
  • I wish I could leave messages for viewing or listening to at a later time.
  • It uses WebRTC and other standards but has enough opaque, proprietary stuff to prevent me from experimenting with it or connecting from non-Nucleus code.
  • It supports streaming music, but has speakers woefully inadequate for the task, with no jack for adding external speakers or support for using Bluetooth to connect to speakers or headphones. The sound is bad enough that when Sarah hears it she makes me she it off because the run, weak audio makes her cringe.

There’s more, but we get into more nitpicky stuff at this point. Suffice it to say, the Nucleus intercom is avoid idea and shows prone, but needs to evolve quickly.

I haven’t decided yet if we’ll keep them. We have a couple more months to decide if we can accept the limitations before we run out of free return time.

 Posted by at 6:40 AM

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