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Distributed couch potatoing

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2003

So, when I fix it so I can control my TiVo via the web and buy an Apple iSight camera & point it at the television, I can watch Junkyard Wars and Family Guy at work via iChat AV, right?

Also, at next year’s O’Reilly Etech conference, someone** will do something with iSight/iChat AV that will allow people attending one panel to tune into the other two concurrent panels (much like Hydra let people textally eavesdrop on concurrent panels last year). The really cool thing? The organizers of the conference won’t have to do anything to make this happen, aside from providing the wireless network. No setting up a streaming, teleconferencing, blah-de-blah server, no renting of video cameras or microphones, no A/V people. Just give people a medium for communication & collaboration and they’ll figure it out for themselves.

** Here’s a suggestion: a presenter could mic him/herself, make the audio available over iChat AV, and make the presentation available on the web so that anyone who has iChat can follow along from anywhere in the conference area. Add in real-time stenography with Hydra and you can enjoy the conference entirely from the bar or one of the sofas in the lobby.

Reader comments

ZachJul 01, 2003 at 3:59PM

Now that’s thinking.

Jon GalesJul 01, 2003 at 4:16PM

Try this….

1) Get a DV cam
2) Hook up the DV cam to your TV/Tivo/Dish/Whatever
3) Hook the DV cam into your computer and turn on iChat A/V

Now iChat A/V will be broadcasting in great quality whatever your TV has on. Coupled with controlling your TiVo via the net, you’ve got a hell of a system. The only problem in this [that I see] is that someone will have to accept the video conference. Maybe there is a setting to auto accept.

Let me know if this works… It’s half theory, half hack. :)

davidJul 01, 2003 at 4:16PM

I love the idea, except that iChatAV is one to one, not one to many. What’s more, you can only be in on one conversation at once.

MarcusJul 01, 2003 at 4:46PM

Or from home — on a bed of the 800 bones you didn’t have to spend.

GregJul 01, 2003 at 5:51PM

I would think the conference promoters would have a cow because of people like myself and Marcus who don’t want to spend $800 for a conference.

That said, if I can get the Hulk off the net, why not a bootleg live feed from a conference?

Super Dork 5000Jul 01, 2003 at 6:34PM

I don’t get what’s so great about iChat AV and the iSight. It’s pretty, but what makes it so much better than the QuickCam and CU-SeeMe I had in 1996?

jkottkeJul 01, 2003 at 6:55PM

I don’t get what’s so great about iChat AV and the iSight. It’s pretty, but what makes it so much better than the QuickCam and CU-SeeMe I had in 1996?

This is a good question. There’s an answer that’s subtle and probably unsatisfying to many, but which I think is more or less right. With iChat AV (and unlike CU-SeeMe), videoconferencing is hooked right into the OS. Everyone with OS X.3 will have iChat AV and, with a camera hooked to their computer, will be able to do this. Also not trivial is that it works with your existing AIM account and buddy list (or automagically on a local network with Rendezvous)…you don’t have to sign up with a new system or tell people how to find you.

jkottkeJul 01, 2003 at 7:02PM

I would think the conference promoters would have a cow because of people like myself and Marcus who don’t want to spend $800 for a conference.

The hard sell item of conferences is the content. “We’ve got all these great speakers on these relevant topics.” It’s what every conference emphasizes. The soft sell item, the more important of the two, is the chance to mingle with the speakers and, way more importantly, all the other attendees. Until you can stream “drinks at the bar until 3am and then joke about your hangover the next morning” over the web, conference attendance via the Internet is, as my dad would say “like eating apple pie on the Internet”.

Bill BrownJul 01, 2003 at 8:06PM

I think David’s point above is not to be overlooked and the reason why Jason’s idea won’t work as iChat AV exists today.

I would love it if iChat could record your videoconferences for later posting to the Web or retention purposes. Heck, if it could integrate with QuickTime, there’s no reason why iChat couldn’t be used to provide captioning via the text input as well since QuickTime has a captioning layer. Now that would be supercool.

WilhelmJul 01, 2003 at 8:13PM

What’s wrong with eating apple pie on the internet?

Super Dork 5000Jul 01, 2003 at 11:27PM

That’s a good answer, and what I was leaning towards. But still, Apple has a way of getting everyone super excited about something that’s not all that exciting.

James SpahrJul 01, 2003 at 11:57PM

It’s better if you get an analog/dv video bridge. I have a Hollywood Bridge ( http://www.dazzle.com/products/hw_bridge_gut.html ) and it works great to broadcast the dv signal from iChat.

(I’m that Designweenie guy mentioned above)

Till WollenbergJul 02, 2003 at 8:12AM

Such a service was provided at the 19c3 in Berlin last year. Using Apple hardware every presentation was streamed (a/v) over the local WLAN. The video-files were made availabe on public ftp-servers after the conference, too. During the event I saw serveral people attending a presentation while watching another on their notebook.

EamonJul 02, 2003 at 10:28AM

For the record, you can stream movies over the net from any ReplayTV, out of the box. A program called DVArchive provides a great interface. I just used it last week to show a particularly relevant episode of The Daily Show to my cow-orkers, who orked merrily in delight.

ScottishJul 03, 2003 at 2:06AM

I get the feeling that this $200 investment would make things much easier on you than the $800 you’d have to spend for a decent digital video camera. You could remote-connect to your Mac at home and do the pause-live-TV shtick, but if watching in near-real-time wasn’t important to you, you could just record the shows and they’d already be on your hard drive, which would make transportation easy. I have one myself, and I must say it is delicious.

Jacob JayJul 03, 2003 at 1:43PM

That’s a rather bolt-together solution - a far better technique would be to get a capture card (as already suggested) and hook your TVs SCART output into it, then use QuickTime Streaming Server (or some other similar solution that takes a video input and streams it), that way you can just use QuickTime Player wherever! You can do this with DVDs (and files) too - just use VLC and stream the output.

To control your player just use Apple Remote Desktop or VNC. Neater would of course be to SSH in and issue applescript commands, or dare I say it write a program to send remote AppleEvents (like some of the iTunes network control programs floating about). You could even connect an IR emitter and control your TV!

Mr BlogJul 05, 2003 at 2:31AM

The Quicktime approach is the way to go for the uni-directional broadcast case (like a TV show). If you need many to many interaction with AV, there is a beta system calledConfmgr that is multi-platform (PC, Mac, and UNIX/Linux etc.) Disclaimer: I worked on the software so I’m biased. It is still a little challenging to set up, but getting better all the time.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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