Chrome OS users across the board may soon be given more control over compatible USB camera hardware, strengthening one of the operating system's weakest aspects, based on a recently spotted bug tracker report. The goal of the work behind that priority 3 bug is specifically to allow users to control the pan, tilt, and zoom of USB-connected cameras that support the feature by bringing a private API related to that to the public API.
This is part of a wider group of changes
The Chrome Enterprise release notes put out by Google indicate that Chrome OS 74 will see the introduction of support for a wide assortment of USB camera accessories ranging from webcams to microscopes. The bug tracker report itself highlights comments indicating that the most common use case for the support will be in that business-centric environment too. Prominently noted among examples is the use of external devices for video conferencing.
Camera capabilities such as the ability to control pan, tilt and zoom in those circumstances will likely prove invaluable. Where compatible, that will enable business users to ensure that every participant is included or that focus can be put where it's needed without moving the equipment itself.
A similar level of usefulness will almost certainly be found among users who fall under the content creation category as well. Backing that up is yet another change spotted recently in the Chromium Gerrit which aims to add the encoding and other prerequisites required for video editing solutions to be created.
That's a feature that's been severely lacking on the operating system for some time, especially since Chromebooks have included webcam hardware since the very beginning. Enabling more granular control over compatible camera hardware will ensure that those with high-end equipment for video capture, such as YouTube channel owners, can better control their hardware at the OS level.
Other noteworthy changes that appear linked to the effort include the addition of USB accessory support on the Linux side of the equation. Those particular code changes are presently being implemented in Chrome 75 and would essentially let Linux containers access the USB ports in a fashion more akin to a native Linux installation.
In short, that allows nearly any USB accessory ranging from 3D printers to ADB access for Android development and including cameras, to be connected and interacted with in Chrome OS via a Linux container.
Finally, work on Chromium has been spotted that will improve the camera software and optimizations, to begin with, via the addition of a 'square' and 'portrait' mode where supported.
When will this land?
Changes in the Enterprise Release notes from Google aren't necessarily exclusive to a specific implementation of the operating system, generally shipping across the entire ecosystem. That means that once launched, USB camera support will arrive on just about every Chrome OS gadget if not all.
While the majority of the changes outlined here are set to begin arriving in version 74, none of that guarantees that any of the changes will land at the same time. That includes the addition of pan, tilt, and zoom control mechanisms for external cameras but it shouldn't take too long either. Work on the changes has been underway since at least early March and the capability is notably already working on some enterprise-only Chrome OS hardware via the above-mentioned private API.