iChat – video chats are really different

I’ve been using the video capabilities of iChat lately. It’s the best part about having the built in iSight camera – if I see one of my contacts has video capability (which usually means they have a Mac) then I simply initiate the chat and off we go.

My last company had video conferencing capabilities and they were excellent. It really made it easy to get together with people in remote offices and not make everyone jump on a plane all the time. While I’m used to video conferencing, this has been my first experience using it in my home.
What’s Cool
The first time I got a video chat running with my daughter off at college it was an event. She didn’t want to bother with it. When I finally convinced her to try it out and she saw my face on her MacBook she immediately thought it was incredibly cool. I picked up the MacBook and promptly walked around the house with my daughter on the screen. Everyone in the house was suitably impressed. My daughter even made me place the MacBook on the bed that her cat was lying on so that she could talk to him. Jupiter appeared unimpressed and barely glanced at her. Cats just don’t get computers.
The Effects feature on iChat makes it fun to waste time too. Want your head to look like it’s the size of a watermelon? Use the effects feature. My personal favorite is conducting a chat while riding a moving roller coaster.
What’s a Little Odd
There are two things about iChat videos that I find a little odd. The first is that I feel like I’m invading some people’s homes when I use it. I was chatting in a text window with a buddy of mine and noticed that he had the video capability (and I knew he had a Mac), so I invited him to a video conference. He had never used it before and clicked on the accept button.
I suddenly found myself transported to his family room where he was watching American Idol with his wife. He looked genuinely shocked to see me – he didn’t realize that I would be effectively sitting on his lap while he watched his show. Needless to say it was a very short conversation. I’m just glad he wasn’t watching TV naked.
The second thing that’s odd about video chats is the way they tend to work. Have you ever been on an AIM chat conversation with someone and the texting just kind of trails off? You know, you’re doing something else while texting someone and that becomes your new focal point? Well, that happens with video chats too and it’s weird. You’re sitting there chatting with someone and ask a question and they grab a web browser to look something up and it obscures the window you are in. Before you know it they are off in Web Land and you’re just staring at them as their eyes dart all over the monitor. Very disconcerting – a new form of etiquette needs to be developed around video chats.
Overall though I really like the video chatting capability. If nothing else it makes me feel like my daughter isn’t 4 hours away anymore.