Video Chat Services to Keep You Connected during COVID-19

Our lives have slowly moved toward becoming more and more online. As the coronavirus outbreak continues to interrupt our normal routines, we’ve turned toward the Internet and video chatting services to keep us connected.

Whether it’s chatting with Facebook, watching live concerts on Instagram, or texting, most of us have been looking for human connections with friends and family in the midst of social distancing and self-quarantines. Video chats have become increasingly popular as more people are seeking different ways to hang out with friends and family.

People were able to video chat when Skype was founded in 2003, but it wasn’t until Apple introduced FaceTime in 2010 that the networking tool gained popularity. The immediacy and convenience of chatting with friends and family through your iPhone made video chatting more commonplace than having to be tethered to your laptop. Since then, different companies have looked for different ways to improve the experience of video chatting through both mobile and desktop features.

Google introduced Google Hangouts in 2013 and has made various upgrades to the platform since then to include more users and additional features. Facebook introduced the Portal in late 2018. Amazon also has its own video chat software through the Amazon Echo Show.

My sister, who lives in Indianapolis, has the Facebook Portal and we’ve used it to chat and see my niece as much as we can due to the distance. One of the biggest benefits of the Portal is that you have more freedom of movement. We’ve found that the Portal camera can have trouble focusing when there is movement in the frame, but overall it’s a great tool.

Zoom, a company founded in 2011, has seen a rise in its number of users skyrocket as people across the world are in lockdown during the coronavirus outbreak. The company has added 2.22 million monthly active users in 2020 compared to the 1.99 million in all of 2019.  It has become the software of choice for primary and secondary schools to host online classes including many Ivy League universities. It’s being used to host as well. As restaurants and bars have closed across the country, many of us are looking for ways to reconnect with friends, family and coworkers. You can also break off in to separate groups too, but this feature is only accessible in the paid model.

My friends and I used Zoom for playing an online version of the game Jackbox this week as a way to reconnect and catch up. It worked super well. We used the free service, but as mentioned above there are different subscription options for a better experience.

Another service you can use is Netflix Party, which allows you to watch Netflix shows together with a group of people and with synchronized video playback and group chat. It’s a free service that just requires a Netflix subscription and Google Chrome.

Although the use of video to interact with friends and family may seem foreign, the idea of telecommuting will become more common as workers may continue to work from home even after the COVID-19 outbreak. Some doctors, including psychiatrists, have even used telemedicine to help treat patients.

Due to the recent surge in internet use from school to work, many different companies are lifting data caps or allowing you to upgrade your service without incurring a rate hike. These different promotions are short-term fixes. You can discuss the length of terms with your specific company.

Let us know if you have a particular service you like to use while practicing social distancing and self-quarantining.

 

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