Now, more than ever, millions of people are working and socializing from the comfort of their own home, which has seen a surge in demand for video chat services.
As such, the companies behind these platforms have been quick to respond to the trend, pushing new features to the forefront of their agenda. It’s a far cry from the limited user experience we all went through at the turn of the 2010s, with stuttering connections and fuzzy images the order of the day.
Check out some of the latest features that can help give your next video chat a true ‘2020’ vision.
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The video meeting app has been kicking around since 2011, but it’s only since the early part of 2020 that it’s enjoyed a remarkable rise in its number of users.
Of course, the demand for teleworking has been the biggest cause for this and Zoom has been well-placed, offering high-quality conference calls for up to 100 users at a time.
To start off, the 40-minute call feature is free but if you want longer sessions then the paid plan starts at $15 per month. You’ll get the option to save meetings to your computer or a cloud thrown in, as well as a number of features such as a beauty filter if you’re having a bad hair day.
There are downsides to the app, however. Privacy concerns have followed it around like a bad smell, so it pays to read up on them before jumping into the Zoom universe.
Styling itself as a fun alternative to the business-like nature of Zoom, House Party is another platform that has become a household name this year.
The app draws on your contact list to hit you with notifications when someone comes online, and you can get up to eight people into a room at once.
There has been some concern that the app is intrusive, so it might be a good idea to turn off notifications using the smiley face feature in the corner of the screen. But, with games like Heads Up and Apples to Apples, a lot of virtual fun can be had.
Instagram – ‘co-watching’
Keen not to be left behind in the rush for video features, Instagram has introduced the possibility of group-sharing the scrolling experience.
‘Co-watching’ now lets IGers chat with their friends via video bubbles so they can comment on and share posts together in real-time. Screen sharing app Squad was at the forefront of this concept in 2019, and it hasn’t taken long for the big players to jump on board.
The move comes at the same time as a stream of IG features, including the ‘Stay at Home’ sticker which almost crashed the site’s servers after a surge in demand. To the platform’s credit, there’s also a wealth of educational info for users who are stuck at home.
Away from the buzz of social media, video chat has also spread into the online entertainment industry. There’s already an abundance of poker options online, from video poker games to even playing against a highly-skilled bot at Texas Hold’Em, but Pokerface claims to be the world’s first mobile poker game with group video chat.
The app aims to recreate the feeling of a group of friends huddled around a table, and, of course, it gives you the chance to read their ‘poker face’ – an important aspect of the game. As well as staying in touch with old friends, it also gives you the chance to meet new players from around the world, and possibly even pros.
Whether this improves your game, or simply demoralises you, though, is another matter.
If poker isn’t your bag, then it’s a good time for communal mobile games, too.
Bunch recently secured nearly $4 million in funding from a group of providers, including Riot Games, to showcase a range of games on their group-sharing app.
Once the app is downloaded, users can link up with friends who appear in chat boxes at the top of the screen. A game is agreed upon and the party is taken there.
If you prefer to play on the PC, then Discord has been around for a few years and offers pretty much the same deal; only gamers there are more likely to play with fellow fans, rather than personal friends.
All of these business calls and virtual games can get pretty tiring after a while. What if you’d still like to talk to people without them taking up your whole screen?
Around allows you to do just that, by keeping people ‘around’ while you do other things. They appear on your screen in the form of bubbles, which can be increased or reduced to your liking so you can carry on with your tasks.
It isn’t available on mobiles just yet, which could be a negative for some people, but, in an age where apps constantly cry for our attention, it’s nice to have a chilled-out alternative.
Skype and Facetime
If you’re more of a traditionalist, then that’s OK. Old favorites such as Skype and Facetime still give you the chat experience you’re used to – but they’ve updated their features recently.
A fun bonus of using Skype these days is its built-in translation tool, so international business calls are nowhere near as daunting as in the past. Facetime, on the other hand, offers a dazzling array of emojis to throw into your social calls, which can now support up to 32 people.
So if you’re bored at home, use the above as a guide to getting in touch with people. The internet is a great tool to bring people together, and these applications will help you to do just that.