What do we want? Information.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Skype, perhaps the most popular web communication tool on the planet, has introduced a new service called Group Video Calling. Group Video Calling provides multi-party video conferencing. As of this post, Skype offers a seven day free trial to road test the service. The latest version of Skype is required.. If you haven't updated Skype in the last month you will need to download the latest version for your operating system.
After the seven day trial you can upgrade your free Skype account to Skype Premium, approximately $8.99 a month. To participate in a group video call at least one person must be running the free trial or have Skype Premium (or Skype for Business). I recently had the opportunity to assist the Park School with their first Skype Group Call. We connected six parties in the Park Auditorium through their HD projector (*nice*). There was some variability in picture quality...from "OK" to "Not Bad". The sound was, for the most part, very good. As with most web conferencing systems there was about a two second delay between the time that we spoke and the time that our remote parties received our audio. The audio video sync was variable as well. Some parties were right in sync, i.e. their voice and face were in sync...others, not so much.
An interesting problem we observed, one that applies to all web conferencing applications but is actually an A/V problem, was feedback. We monitored our audience with a laptop and our host communicated with our remote audience with another. The two laptops set-up an audio feed back cycle (read:annoying squeal). Shutting down our audience laptop was the quick solution. The take-away here is that unless you are going to mute both the speakers and microphone on a second laptop, don't bother tuning it in to your mulit-party web conference.
While the jury is still out, Group Video Calling has serious promise. Reports are in from multiple users who have conducted international conversations with great success. Take advantage of the free trial and give it a spin. We'd love to hear about your experience. Send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Skyping!
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