With the torrents of news feeds about Google+ and influx of people adding me to Google’s new push into social, I finally got to try out the new group video chat feature, called Hangout.
This feature is totally useful and am sure will be the norm for VOIP calling. It’s great for visually putting a face to the name of a person you’ve been communicating with over email. Even Facebook which recently teamed up with Skype to offer in-browser video calling does not have a group video chat feature yet. But surely it will come. The challenge for Google+ however, is to pry people away from making Facebook the default place for social interactions.
We had two people in China and two in America video conferencing over a live call with Google+ Hangouts. Although the connection dropped out a few times and people had to re-join the conversation, on the whole it worked pretty well.
Basically there is a main screen in the middle and smaller live video screens of everyone else in the conversation underneath.
The cool thing is that whoever is talking or makes the loudest noise becomes the main screen. However this led to some awkward moments, for example when two people talked at the same time, the screen switched rapidly between two people and when someone made a loud ruffling noise it switched to them. I’m sure this feature would be embarrassing if someone farted loudly and the video switched to them…no hiding now!
Since Google+ is still in the early stages of beta testing, they are still working out some of the kinks. But so far I like what I’ve seen, especially with this Hangouts feature.