Streaming the family

As the restrictions for Covid-19 take hold, one thing that became apparent was the lack of webcams! I didn’t expect that: teachers trying to give homework cause review bombing of smartphone apps, PE lessons from Joe Wicks each morning (my family love it!), reporters giving questions via video links, and even funerals conducted remotely. All of this supposes a reasonably technically literate audience who have something more than a smart phone and can connect it to a streaming platform.

My local computer store has run out of the cheap ones and I’m searching online for more Logitech models. One excellent comparison site I found listed the different models and their capabilities. These are high-end webcams, more suited to live streaming and business conferencing than TikTok videos or two friends chatting.

Video game players have long streamed gameplay, and as most spend a reasonable amount of time in front of their computers they are ahead of the wave with this one. Platforms such as Twitch and Discord have long served the gaming audience and they tend to look in dismay at older social content sharing sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Even the more traditional business conferencing ones such as Webex and Skype gave way to a proliferation of options such as Zoom, Hangouts, and GotoMeeting. It was even suggested that my wife install the teenagers favourite HouseParty to hold a committee meeting! Strange times indeed.

Digital grandparents will struggle somewhat as many grew up when telephones still had party lines (pick up the phone, listen to see if anyone is using it, wait until they’ve stopped and then crank the handle to connect to the operator) Now days most grandparents will have smart phones and perhaps use Facebook – already old! – or something like Whatsapp, or grandchildren with tablets and tech savvy to help them get setup.

One final project here is getting the large screen kitchen TV set up with a webcam and being able to display another so that we can interconnect with our sister-in-law, who is sheltering in place so to avoid catching coronavirus. Having a natural video link with her would be excellent and easy to use. Apps such as Tellybean make it simple but include a camera on a smart phone. I think I’ll go the Raspberry Pi route and run a true USB webcam with output on the HDMI interface.

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