Group Video Chat With Family and Friends For Free

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By Matthew Guay on July 30th, 2010

Whether it’s a graduation or new birth, there are many special occasions in life that we’d like to be present for but can’t due to distance.  When a call doesn’t cut it, here’s how to video chat with up to 20 friends or family with Tokbox.

Video Chat can be complicated to setup, especially if you want to video chat with multiple people.  There are numerous web apps that offer free, limited plans for group video chat, but they are almost all aimed at the enterprise market and are fairly complicated to use.  Whether you’re a geek or have never setup a webcam, complicated tools never make the job easier.  We were excited to find that Tokbox is very simple to use for group video chats, and worked great.  Keep reading to see how it works, and then go try it out with your family and friends!

Getting Started

First, you’ll need to get a Tokbox account.  Head over to the Tokbox website (link below), and click the Sign Up button under Video Chat.

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Enter your name, age, email and password.  Agree to the terms of use, and then click Submit.

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That’s all, folks; you’re all ready to make video calls.  Click the call now button at the top of the page to go ahead and invite friends to chat with you.

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You may have to wait a few moments for the video interface to load.  Note that the entire TokBox interface is powered by Flash, so you’ll have to have flash installed on your computer to use it.

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Once it’s loaded, Flash will ask to access your camera and microphone.  Click Allow, and if you’d rather not have to answer this again in the future, check the Remember box as well.  Now click Close to get on with your video chat.

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Enter your friends’ email addresses and add an invitation message, then press Invite Contacts.

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Alternately, click one of the social media icons on the right to invite your friends from Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace to your video chat.

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You’ll now see your video on the left side, and blank area on the right while you’re waiting on your friend to arrive.

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You may see some tips for things to do to help your experience, but generally everything just worked in our test without tweaking.

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Joining a Video Chat

If you’ve been invited to a TokBox chat, you’ll receive a link in an email or social network message.  Click the link to join your friend’s chat.

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Click Allow to let TokBox access your camera and microphone so your friend can see and hear you in the chat.

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Finally, enter your name and click Enter video chat now.

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After a few moments, you and your friend will be chatting together with live audio and video.  You can see information about your internet connection by hovering over the video.  Up to 20 people can chat at once, so if there are more participants the video windows will resize to fit all of the videos.

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Alternately, if your computer doesn’t have a webcam, your video box will show a mic icon and say Voice only.  You can still see your friends’ videos, but they won’t be able to see you.

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You can also text chat with your family and friends from the text box underneath the video chat. This will help you troubleshoot issues with audio or video. 

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Extra Features

Tokbox also makes it easy for you to share videos and pictures with your friends.  Click the TV icon on the top of the chat window to add a video from YouTube or a picture from Flickr or Picasa to show everyone in your chat.

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Once you’ve exited a video call, you can see your recent calls on the dashboard, and can even easily call someone back.

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You’ll see a countdown timer before the call starts, so if you accidently clicked call you can always cancel before your video call starts.

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You can add your contacts from social networks to quickly invite them to a video call from the dashboard as well.

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Or, if one of your friends calls you while you’re logged into TokBox, you’ll see a nice preview asking if you want to accept or ignore the call.  Click Accept to start video chatting with the caller.

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Or, you can change Tokbox settings if you like.  Click the Account link on the top right, and then select Edit my profile.

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Here you can add personal info, as well as change your TokBox username.  You can share your username with friends and family so they can quickly call you anytime by visiting tokbox.com/your_name.

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Conclusion

While Skype is a great service for making voice and video calls to individual people, it’s currently difficult or impossible to video chat with several people at once.  TokBox makes it incredibly simply to video chat with your family and friends, and since up to 20 people can chat together they all can join in at the same time.  Whether you want to discus reunion plans or simply have an online reunion, you can quickly get your family in the same “room” with TokBox even if they’re not tech savvy. This might come in handy if you have a loved one stationed overseas who aren’t tech savvy.  We’ve tried many different services, but few were as easy to use as Tokbox.  Give it a try, and let us know how it worked for you!

Link

Signup for Tokbox

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 07/30/10
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