Ever since I wrote the VZOChat article, which covered how to embed your own personal videochat room into your blog, I’ve been obsessed with trying to find new uses for my new webcam.
I’ve covered ways you can have some fun with video, and how to use wi-fi webcams to configure a wireless security system. So what’s left? Well, one area I would like to cover is how to turn your webcam into an IP phone.
Almost everyone has used some form of VoIP communication that makes use of some configuration of voice, video, PC-to-PC calling or PC-to-Landline calling. Depending what software you download, you may discover that it doesn’t always offer all of these features. You might be able to utilize video-chat in an IM app, but you can’t call a landline. You might be able to make PC-to-Landline calls, but there’s no option to video conference.
Therefore, in this post I’d like to offer a roundup of both new and old applications that have one important thing in common – they incorporate your webcam for videoconferencing, and they allow you to use the software as an IP phone, making PC-to-Landline calls if you so wish.
Skype Now Offers Videochat
The fastest way to turn your webcam into an IP phone is probably simply to upgrade whatever version of Skype you’re running to the latest version. One of the newest (relatively) features of Skype is the ability to now initiate a video call with other Skype users. I was using Skype for both text chat and landline phone calls for quite some time before one of my friends from the UK suggested that we have a video chat. The video feature was news to me, but after I upgraded Skype, sure enough there was the “Video Call” button right under his name!
The screen layout for video chat on Skype is really simple, and most users love the fact that Skype keeps this window within Skype itself (not a new pop-up window), which means you can very easily flip between your video chat and any text chats that you might have going on at the same time.
My buddy wasn’t online during my test call, but here you can see the layout. The caller’s video appears in the larger square at the center of the screen, and you can see what you look like in the smaller “caller” box at the lower left. Volume and video controls are along the bottom of the screen. Of course, Skype does have the landline calling feature as well (which you can even conference into the videochat if you like, so it makes the cut!
SightSpeed – The Highest Quality Video Conferencing Available
I had to addto this list after I read a fantastic review in PC Mag about the top video quality this app offers. While I wasn’t really convinced that anything could outperform Skype (I’m a longtime Skype fan), to my pleasant surprise SightSpeed did. First of all, this impressive software offers a larger view of your contact (as well as you – the caller), and the video quality is without a doubt superior to any other video chat application I’ve ever used.
The SightSpeed demo test call went swimmingly well. Get it…swimmingly….as in, it’s a fish tank… Ahem, so anyway, in addition to the webcam video chat feature, you can click on “Telephone” at the top menu and call a landline if you wish (at a low cost-per-minute, just like all of the others.)
This qualifies SightSpeed to our list of webcam IP phone apps. However, I also wanted to mention another very cool feature that I discovered about this software. If you click on the “Video Mail & Blogs” menu option, you can actually record a video message (limited length with the free version) that you can email to whoever you like, or you can ask for the embed code so that you can embed your video message right on your blog. Now that’s very convenient, and very cool.
ooVoo Will Make You Go Ooooooooh
The last application I’d like to cover that features both high-quality video chat capability as well as landline phone access is ooVoo. One thing I do have to say about ooVoo is that the application interface is very slick. I love the black and grey design and buttons with glowing blue highlights. Also, the in-chat angled views of each participant is a very nice touch.
The coolest part of this app is that with your account, you’re provided with a free link that you can send folks via email (or place on your blog) that lets people call you through their web browser without having to install ooVoo on their PC. The beauty of it is that the web interface they see looks almost identical to the application interface itself.
This picture above is a call initiated to me directly from Firefox. The view doesn’t look a whole lot different than from within ooVoo itself does it? I love it when people can call me without the need to install additional software – just think how easy it would be for your parents or grandparents to use it. As long as they have a webcam that’s already enabled and working – all they have to do is click the link and they’re connected to you.
Of course, ooVoo provides a dialing pad to call landlines (at affordable rates), but what I really wanted to point out is that just like SightSpeed, this app lets you record and send video messages to friends via email.
Unlike SightSpeed, there doesn’t appear to be any quick way to embed your message anywhere online. For more details on ooVoo, make sure to check out Wez’s detailed review of the app.
No matter which of these three webcam apps with IP phone capability you choose, you’re sure to be pleased with both the quality of these apps and how easy they are to set up and use. While I personally have always preferred Skype, I’m seriously considering switching over to SightSound after testing it out.
Do you have a favorite application that offers both video conferencing and VoIP in one package? Share your favorites in the comments section below.