Group video-conferencing for deaf or hearing folks

March 26, 2007

Wengo Meeting logoOur Sorenson and D-link VPs (videophones) are wonderful, but how can we talk with several different callers at the same time? And for free?

Use Wengo Meeting via your computer with a webcam.

Using Wengo Meeting on your computer, up to five people can video-conference at the same time. Yes, FIVE. Through almost any Internet browser like Internet Explorer or Netscape or Firefox, as long as they have the latest Adobe Flash software installed. And via either the Mac or a PC.  (Note: this wouldn’t work with your Sorenson / D-Link videophone.)

The process for setting up a video meeting is very easy. The meeting “host” has to create an account or sign in, but the sign-in / account creation process is very easy. Then the host sets a date and time for the meeting (although the meeting can take place earlier or later), invite up to four people using their email addresses, and write a personal message for all the participants. Then submit this info. Everyone’ll then get an email announcing the video meeting, along with a link to the correct Wengo Meeting site.

Wengo meeting quadCome the meeting day / time, the host would need to sign in. But the other participants only need to click on the link in the invitation email to join in — no sign-up necessary (although they can, if they want to). A screen much like the picture on the left then appears, with your own (smaller) video in the very middle and the others with their larger videos on the corners. The five (or just two, or three, or four) participants can now sign and speak with each other. Totally cool.

And did I mention it’s free? At least, for now!

There were at least three problems I could see with this website. First, when setting up the meeting date and time, Wengo uses GMT+1. I think that’s somewhere in England. Plus, at this time, GMT isn’t on daylight savings time, further confusing matters. Tip: use the Time Zone Converter to find out what time it is where you are — use “Etc / GMT+1” in the first column and your time-zone in the second column. T’would be nice if there was an option or list where the host could pick the time zone. (Don’t forget that you can always put your own time zone’s date / time in the personal message, and you can always start the meeting earlier or later, even on another day.)

Second problem I saw was that while my video was pretty clear, my partner’s video was blurry — even though we both had brand-new laptops with the same type of webcam, and both laptops were hooked up to the same Internet service via wifi. Don’t know why. Need to experiment with other friends and family.

Third problem was that when I tried to video meet with my brother across the country, Wengo Meeting wouldn’t recognize his webcam hooked up to his Mac computer. That was two months ago; maybe Wengo’s fixes have improved things since then. I hope. Hey bro, wanna try again and video-meet?

In spite of all these problems, I think Wengo Meeting has a lot of promise as a free group videoconferencing tool. I should note that Wengo also has several other cool services:

  • Wengo Phone: a downloadable computer program to talk / video-chat with others. Mac or Windows.
  • Wengo Visio: embed a video widget onto your blog or webpage, or even on your Windows Vista desktop.

Let me know in the comments if you know of any other free or inexpensive group videoconferencing web services.
(Thanks to Download Squad for clueing me in to Wengo Meeting.)


3 Responses to “Group video-conferencing for deaf or hearing folks”

  1. karen Says:

    Please clarify that it can only be used through computer and not through Sorenson videophone?? Just curious.

  2. proudgeek Says:

    I’ve edited this post to explain that this would only be through a computer with webcam. Wouldn’t work with a Sorenson / D-link videophone. Thanks, Karen!

  3. Many thanks for your post and for having tested WengoMeeting.

    Today hundreds of people are using it to communication worldwide for freed. And it’ll remain FREE ;-).

    As a new product we’re working on it to improve it everydays, Thanks for your 3 comments. If you want to test it again with me, I’ll be happy to scheddule a video meeting with you (feel free to mail me).

    Patrick Amiel (Marketing Director Wengo – Paris, France)

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