Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gmail video chat via Vidyo

Google has introduced video chat.


Macs and PCs alike, there's an installer for each platform.

Based on Vidyo technology, which is rather nice for that company.

VidyoConferencing solutions just work. Easily. Reliably. Inexpensively. Pleasingly. From anywhere. And that’s because Vidyo provides for high-quality, low-latency, highly resilient, broad-based deployments over general-purpose networks with the introduction of the first multi-point video conferencing ... thanks to Vidyo’s unique intellectual property and the advent of the VidyoRouter™.

Vidyo’s conferencing solutions are the first to take advantage of the most recent enhancement to the H.264 standard for video compressionScalable Video Coding (SVC). The result is HD/Telepresence quality enhanced by industry-best resilience and low-latency — and all delivered over general-purpose IP networks. VidyoConferencing solutions provide quality experiences for all participants, ranging from Mac and Windows desktops to special video conferencing room solutions. No dedicated networks ever required.

Google is hosting the Vidyo router.

I will be testing this ASAP.

Update 11/13/08: In 2007 Google acquired Marratech's software for internal use, but this seems unrelated.

Update 11/19/08: They don't mention this, but the Mac version is Intel only. So far I've found reasonable reliability on XP machines, but I had very bad results with an XP and Mac Intel video chat. I don't yet know where the problem lies. There's no #$!$ notification solution. (I got better results in retesting later.)

Update 12/11/08: Establishing a trust relationship to enable chat is underdocumented and a bit crazy. I recommend:
  1. Ignore the Gmail chat list. It's fatally flawed. Type your contact name in the Gmail chat search box.
  2. Select the match you want (you may see multiple emails for one contact, you need to use a gmail address), then mouse over to invite them to chat. This sends them an invite message.
  3. If they accept the invite message you now have a trust relationship. You can initiate a chat now, or they can.
I can't find any documentation on the maximal resolution GVC will handle, but I suspect it maxes out at 640x480 and 15-30fps. That's pretty much top of the line now, I think to go above that we need on camera h.264 hardware compression.

The quality of Google Video Chat turns out to be very influenced by firewalls. If the firewall allows point-to-point direct connection for the chat, you get great results. If not GVC will try to tunnel the video via Google, and the quality is much less (iChat in contrast, would just give up, so this is commendable).

Update 12/12/08: In a corporate meeting we lost connection every 10-20 minutes. We have reason to suspect the root cause is a Comcast cable modem service issue at the remote site, but we also believe Google Video connections, like Microsoft LiveMeeting connections, are fragile. Still investigating!

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