Setting up a live video conference doesn’t require a specialized app anymore, if you have Opera Browser in your Android phone. The latest update brings an option to set up a conversation with up to eight people through WebRTC. The new update also gives some design improvements. Get it here: Opera Mobile on Google Play.
Video is getting more and more popular with all aspects of mobile, be it watching video, shooting video or video chatting. Because of the rising desire to see who is on the other end of the chat, I thought I’d talk about what’s different options to video chat. While these aren’t the be-all end-all options out there, they should be good popular choices to try them out.
Skype is probably one of the most well-known video chat apps out there. While the Android version is a bit less feature filled than the desktop app, there’s still the option to use the front facing camera to video chat. For tablet owners, Skype has a great landscape layout utilizing the entire screen. Tablets with cellular access as well as Wi-Fi options, it’s not a bad idea to use it over Wi-Fi. Most of the time connection is a little faster and won’t cause any data overages because of a long video chat.
Tango is a great and really popular video chat app for Android. Not only can a video chat be easily had, but there’s also an option to send audio messages. Not an audio chat, almost like a voicemail through text. Another nice thing about Tango is there’s no account needed. When logging in for the first time, Tango looks to the contact list to see which friends have Tango already installed. Once that’s done, it’s easy to start video chatting.
ooVoo offers some pretty cool features not available on many of the video chat options for Android. One example is the 12 way video chat. This can show four of the people chatting on the screen at one time with the ability to switch between any of the other people on the chat. Like the other options, ooVoo can chat with anyone using the available desktop application.
Now, what Botiful claims to do is to connect with an Android phone over USB or Bluetooth, and allows the person on the other end of a Skype call to control the robot using their PC or Mac. It has wheels for moving forward and backward, and its head can tilt up and down to adjust the view. This is designed to allow the person on the other end to have a degree of interactivity with the person they’re talking to. The examples given include being able to play with a child, or being able to easily talk directly to specific people in a boardroom meeting. Of course, the downside is that while nobody puts baby in the corner, Botiful can be put in the corner.
What isn’t explained is how exactly it will work to be controlled by the phone. The Kickstarter page says it connects via Bluetooth, but will it use an app running in the background to control the Botiful’s motion? Or will it be able to detect commands via Skype alone? While Skype is certainly a conveinent way to integrate video, is there anything in particular with Skype that is needed for Botiful? There’s an SDK that will allow other applications to connect with Botiful, so there’s the potential for other applications to use this. Imagine an augmented reality game that used the Botiful to navigate around and target enemies, or explore an area?
Those worried about their phones staying on the Botiful will be assauged by the presence of a powerful magnet in the stand that can hold a small magnetic strip that can be attached to a phone (or preferably a case) and promises to keep it on the robot.
Recently, I got to participate in a Google+ Hangout with Cinco Barnes, Chief Visionary Officer at Spacetime Studios, and several other journalists, discussing Dark Legends. We broached a whole range of topics, finding out about new tweaks and features coming to Dark Legends, along with some early details on Arcane Legends.
Probably the biggest takeaway from the Hangout was that the energy system originally introduced will be radically modified in new updates. Most importantly, the ‘actual’ gameplay levels will become free to play as far as energy goes. This should help a lot with keeping players immersed in the game, especially as now players replaying earlier levels can more easily stick with ad hoc groups that form up. Because energy was frequently used up by the map’s story missions, this meant that only small groups would come together â€“ and they would frequently disband.
While other changes to the energy system should be incoming, particularly as Cinco Barnes claimed that it was there primarily as a balancing tool, rather than just a monetization incentive, this should dramatically change and improve the game. It should dramatically change the pacing: now longer play sessions will be possible without expending energy.
The other big reveals from the Hangout were about Arcane Legends, the next game in the Legends series. This should take some of the combat mechanics from Dark Legends, and return the series to more of a fantasy-inspired setting. Oh, and there will be no energy system in this game. No real release date is available yet. However, do not expect development of Arcane Legends to slow down content additions for Dark Legends or past games at all.
The full Hangout footage is embedded below. We discuss other topics, including our general thoughts on the game and series as a whole. Vampire teeth get involved! Plus, hear about how Star Legends could have had space vampires. The full cast includes myself (see me adjusting my headphones at random intervals!), Ashley Esqueda of G4 and Techfoolery, H.B. Duran of GirlGamer.com, and Beau Hindman of Massively.
One of Google+’s defining features has been Hangouts, allowing users to video chat with up to 9 other people simultaneously. The mobile apps finally received this functionality a few months ago, but only in the ability to join Hangouts that already were started from traditional computer-based clients. However, Google has recently added this functionality to the Messenger section of Google+, finally allowing mobile users to start video chatting with their circles. It works by starting up a Messenger group, inviting selected contacts, then selecting the camera option in the top right corner. This starts a Hangout, which other users can join by tapping the Hangout notification in the chat conversation. This works cross-platform, across computers, Android devices, and iOS. Messenger still supports the sending of photos in messages as well, and non-Google+ members can be invited to Messenger, though they will need to sign up for Google+ before hanging out. The updates for Android and iOS are available now; Gingerbread is required for use of Hangouts on Android. Motorola Xoom owners should note that it appears as if the microphone does not work for Hangouts, despite working for Google Talk video chat.
So iOS 5 was released to the public this past week, and with it a variety of useful new features for iOS users. Notification Center, while it does borrow a lot from Android’s notifications, is a much-needed improvement. iCloud features are useful and there’s just lots of little fixes that make the iOS experience much better. However, the problem is that Apple has introduced yet another proprietary standard: iMessage. This allows any iOS user to send text, photos, and even videos, to another user from within the Messages app. Even iPod touch and iPad users can message other iOS users, and iPhone users have a unified solution for SMS/MMS and free iMessages that use the data plan.
Except that this is not entirely designed as convenience, or as a way to stick it to the carriers; instead, this is designed to promote vendor lock-in. This is meant for iPod touch and iPad owners who may not have an iPhone as their phone to become tempted to get one. After all, won’t it become a pain when trying to communicate with friends who have iPhones when not around wifi? Wouldn’t it just be easier to have an iPhone so iMessaging is just what becomes used when communicating? That’s exactly what Apple wants. They want to sell more Apple products, not promote open standards. Apple promised that FaceTime would become an “open standard” last year when announcing the feature; there are currently zero products not made by Apple that are able to use FaceTime. I sincerely doubt that Apple will be even attempting to make iMessage usable outside of Apple products.
This is the kind of vendor lock-in that hurts innovation and competition. Open standards and protocols are in use because they allow for different platforms to talk to each other. It’s why SMS and MMS took off. It’s why we can email anyone. Open protocols are good for everyone, and Apple trying to promote their own protocols for the sake of improving their own products seems dangerous and potentially monopolistic. Google at least is interested in creating services that work over multiple devices and operating systems: Android voice calls use Google Talk video calls and work on PC, Mac, and Linux devices as well. While there isn’t an official app for Google Talk video calls on iOS, third-party solutions exist, and Hangouts through Google+ are available as well. In fact, this is because Google Talk is based off of XMPP and uses standard cross-platform open protocols for their services.
I will not call Google angels trying to promote open protocols solely for the good of mankind, because they are a business after all, and they are trying to make money. However, their actions and services they run show a concern for open access in a way that Apple does not. Apple wants to sell more Apple products by creating services that run solely on Apple products. Google wants users to use Google services, but on whatever device they choose to run it on. That is the difference between iOS and Android: one is far more committed to openness than the other.