vLine Blog - WebRTC Video Chat

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  • November 22, 2013 5:36 pm

    Mobile Video Chat for Salesforce.com

    What if you could click a button and connect with your sales contact? Nope, we didn’t say sign-up for an account or download some software. Just click a button and - BAM - you’re face-to-face with a client.

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    In this two-minute video, you’ll see how we hacked vLine into the Salesforce1 platform to create this powerful scenario. It shows how you can get a video call started from laptop to mobile device and mobile to mobile.

    Client’s not available? No problem. You can put the link into a meeting invitation and get the video chat rolling at a future time.

    Jesse and Tom built this in two days for the recent Dreamforce Hackathon, and we think this is a great step towards making video calls an everyday part of the sales process.

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    We’d love to hear what you think about this use of vLine to improve sales calls. Send us an email or let us know @vlineinc.

  • November 13, 2013 1:43 pm

    The Democratization of Real-time Video Conferencing

    Today, a video call means something a little different to everyone. Some think Skype, Facetime or Google Hangouts. For others, it’s WebEx or GoToMeeting. Those working in corporate environments might think of expensive, fancy telepresence conference systems in specialized conference rooms. In each case, some mix of pre-arranged relationships, downloads, specialized equipment or a lot of cash are required.

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    At vLine, we think a video call means making one click. That’s it. We believe video calls should be simple, fast, and affordable. WebRTC is the catalyst for democratizing video calls and vLine is at the forefront of making video calls accessible to all.

    The vLine Telepresence System

    The picture above illustrates one example of why we think video calls are on the path to ubiquity. It’s our high quality, reliable telepresence system that connects our office with anyone who wants to start a video call. It uses 3 pieces of hardware and our free vLine link service.

    As you can see, this system is not a fancy telepresence system that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars but rather a bookmarked vLine link in the browser that runs all day overlooking our work area. Anyone working remotely can hop in and out any time they want to communicate with the office.

    There are three reasons we think this set-up is an indicator of the great things to come for video calls:

    1. Easy to use. We send someone a link and they are instantly connected.

    2. Affordable to deploy. Total cost of this system: $1117.93. The parts include:

    3. Plug and play. No fancy degrees required.

    We recently had a visit from a representative at a top carrier who was blown away by the quality of our platform, including our telepresence system described above. “It just works,” he said. This was high praise and the reaction we aim for with our offering.

    We are already seeing vLine users in the real world starting to use the vLine link as an always-on conference room. This is a great example of a use case that was not imaginable or possible before WebRTC and the democratization of real-time video calls.

    Do you have other novel ideas for ubiquitous real-time video? Leave a comment or reach out to us at hello@vline.com or @vlineinc.

  • October 21, 2013 11:57 am

    WebRTC for mobile and group conferencing

    Packed into Yelp headquarters on Wednesday, October 9, attendees of San Francisco’s HTML5 Meetup heard our CEO and co-founder, Ben Strong, dive into the state of WebRTC for mobile and group conferencing. Now you can hear about it, too, in this video of his thirty-minute presentation.

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    A few teasers…

    When it comes to mobile WebRTC, support was added in Chrome 29 and Firefox 24 for Android. Apple only allows browsers on iOS to use the mobile Safari engine, so Chrome for iOS does not yet support WebRTC. But there is a work around - embed your WebRTC in your application.

    One big question developers face is whether to build an HTML5 WebRTC application for the browser or build it as a native mobile app. There are benefits - and tradeoffs - to either path. Taking into account the differences between devices is one of the most challenging aspects of mobile WebRTC. Most mobile devices are not as powerful as laptops (of course, there are exceptions in both directions), and spending time understanding how WebRTC adapts to various network environments is critical to creating a desirable experience.

    Before moving on to group conferencing, Ben shares insights about the plethora of devices on the market today that are “not quite mobile,” but can leverage WebRTC to make it into a high end telepresence device (think fancy Cisco installation at a fraction of the price).

    Support for group conferencing is an ongoing quest in the land of WebRTC. Ben dives into your options when it comes to supporting multi-party connections. Live demos illustrate the differences between a mesh (every peer connects to every other peer) versus star (all feeds are streamed through a central server) configuration. The tradeoffs are analyzed.

    Ben wraps up with a handful of considerations for UI configuration.

    Let us know what you think and, as always, if you have any questions, let us know @vlineinc or hello@vline.com.

  • October 18, 2013 6:43 am

    vLine offers “A Practical Guide to WebRTC”

    Our CEO and co-founder, Ben Strong, will take the stage in Santa Clara November 6-7 to walk you through what it takes to get your WebRTC application up and running.

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    Based on years in the WebRTC trenches, vLine offers deep expertise about the ins and outs of making the promise of WebRTC become a reality. Ben will dig into the heavy lifting, such as figuring out signaling, session management, UI controls, STUN, TURN and more. He’ll also talk about the mobile trends for WebRTC and what it will mean for you.

    Whether you’re still getting your arms around what WebRTC could mean for you or you’ve already got some stripes, the event is poised to expand your knowledge. Registration is free. We’ll also be exhibiting and invite you stop by to meet our team!

    You can follow the latest about the event @WebRTCSummit and @vlineinc

  • October 11, 2013 3:02 pm

    WebRTC: If it’s P2P, why do I need a server?

    At the SFHTML5 All About WebRTC MeetUp earlier this week (that’s our CEO, Ben Strong, speaking at the event), one question kept coming up: If WebRTC is peer-to-peer, why do you need STUN and TURN servers?

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    WebRTC needs to work 100% of the time

    WebRTC can be the communication promised land. What could be better than peer-to-peer video, audio, and data connections based on open source code?

    Many developers have built WebRTC applications without STUN or TURN servers. And they work well. Most of the time. It’s the “rest of the time” that makes people take pause. Unless you know your WebRTC solution works in ALL situations, it’s hard to rely on it as your go-to system.

    This is where the servers come in.

    Connecting across networks? You’ll need a server.

    WebRTC works brilliantly when connecting browsers within the same local network. But as soon as you start reaching outside your network – into a corporate firewall, for example – you’re going to need a little more, well, firepower.

    Firewall configurations won’t let WebRTC in without using the STUN (Session Traversal Utilities for NAT) or TURN (Traversal Using Relays around NAT) protocol. This is why you’ll need a server.

    STUN attempts to poke a hole in the firewall so your call can go through. This protocol does the trick a lot of the time. If a connection is made using STUN, you’ve established a peer-to-peer connection. This is great because a STUN-based connection is not CPU or network intensive for the server.

    When STUN isn’t enough, the TURN protocol is required. When TURN is used, the connection is relayed through the server and it’s not peer-to-peer. The relayed connection uses both network and processing power on the server, which limits the number of connections that can be handled on a single server at one time. (And if you need a lot of connections, you’ll need a lot of servers.)

    How does the system determine what’s needed?

    ICE is the protocol followed for determining which path to use, from the least complicated: the host, used when the WebRTC connection is on the same local network, to progressively more complicated: STUN then TURN protocols, both of which require servers.

    OK, so I need a server. What now?

    If you’ve decided you want to use WebRTC and 100% reliability is what you need, you’re in server territory.

    What’s important to consider when you think about your servers? We think you should have three priorities:  

    1. Latency
    2. Backup and redundancy
    3. Load-balancing (network and CPU)

    Several paths are available to build out your server infrastructure. Your appetite for which is best for you depends on your development skills, time, and budget.

    Option one: AWS. Many details about using AWS, including some pricing implications, are outlined in our June post, Tunneling WebRTC over TCP (and why it matters). One thing to note about AWS is you can select your own priorities around latency and redundancy.

    Option two: Open source TURN server. (One example can be found here.) Many purists determined to build their own solution will consider this path. It becomes your job to get the servers running in locations with low latency to all users (geographically distributed) and to make sure those servers can scale to handle the load.

    Option three: vLine for developers. We’ve spent over two years focused exclusively on creating a WebRTC platform that works. 100% of the time. For those of you looking to add WebRTC-based functionality to your site, but want to spend your resources on the rest of your business – not keeping pace with the rapidly evolving WebRTC arena.

    One quick way to get a sense of the quality of our platform is to use vLine link, which is based on the same global platform you can use for your solution.

    We’re always happy to field questions. Please email us at hello@vline.com or find us @vlineinc.

  • October 9, 2013 9:25 am

    Introducing vLine link: Free, simple WebRTC video chat

    vLine has been leading the WebRTC charge for two years with our platform, vLine for developers, that makes it easy to add video chat to any website.

    Today, we are thrilled to announce vLine link, which lets you create your own free video chat link that can be used with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

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    Copy. Paste. Video Chat. It’s that simple to get your vLine link up and running. In under a minute you can be video chatting. When you reach out to someone, all they have to do is click the link.

    There are many ways to use your vLine link. Here are just a few: 

    • Create a team meeting room
    • Reach out to a customer
    • Add it to a meeting invite
    • Call your mom

    vLine link complements vLine for developers, our WebRTC platform that lets you add video chat to your site.

    We’d love to hear what you think about vLine link. Reach out to us at hello@vline.com or @vlineinc.

  • October 2, 2013 12:26 pm

    Snappy bow ties & a smile

    When the travel industry and internet collided, they unwittingly conspired to wring out all semblance of personal touch when it comes to booking a trip.

    Good news: the personal touch is back.

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    In an evolutionary business model, virgo.travel (@virgobell), a subsidiary of Guestmob.com, is turning the travel industry on its head. Customers interact directly with an agent via video who is skilled to help them find accommodations that fit their needs. This personal hotel booking concierge experience lets you secure reservations on the spot or book online later on your own at a time of your convenience.

    And perhaps the best part? A huge percentage of their offers are at a discount up to 50% compared to other booking sites such as Expedia and hotels.com.

    Virgo.travel is powering its video, audio, and chat capabilities with the vLine developer platform. Seamlessly integrated into their site, the ability to connect face-to-face is a core underlying value of what they offer. Customers are thrilled to be able to ask questions, get recommendations, and think about options to tweak their plans to get the most out of their travel budget.

    “The internet has created an environment that is disconnected from personal touch. Virgo’s changing that model by putting the human element back into booking travel,” explained Robert Barone, Director, Marketing. “vLine’s WebRTC platform is a central part of our ability to provide video chat in our service.”

    So next time you’re dreaming about hitting the slots in Vegas, sipping an umbrella drink by the beach, or dashing off on a business trip, check out what Virgo.travel has to offer. The real person sporting a striped bow tie and blue plaid shirt will make you smile - almost as much as the deal they’ll be able to provide.

  • September 25, 2013 6:47 am

    vLine Welcomes Engineering Gurus

    We recently added a couple of powerhouse developers to our team. With their help, we’re excited to be able to turn out functionality you’ve been requesting a little faster.

    Jesse Rabek has jumped in to drive our iOS development. His past has taken him through a wide range of projects, including embedded and mobile as well as web development and gaming. Jesse cofounded a startup in Venezuela and managed the driver team at (the late) Palm, Inc.

    When he’s not mastering IOS for vLine and WebRTC, he’s probably off gaming, drumming, dancing, or hiking.  @JesseRabek

    Jim Wong is currently focused on developing our multi-party conferencing capabilities. He’s steeped in startup experience, most notably on flexible and scalable client-server applications. Before joining us, Jim was an architect and director of engineering at SugarSync. He ran SugarSync’s team that was responsible for core sync features and building the infrastructure to support tens of millions of users and billions of user files. Bytemobile, an industry –leading optimization solution for wireless operators and Vosaic, a pioneering video streaming company in the late 1990’s are other notable startups in Jim’s past.

    When not at vLine, Jim enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, playing basketball, and doing the bare minimum maintenance required to prevent his house from falling down. @james_d_wong

  • September 18, 2013 6:15 am

    Join us! Upcoming SFHTML5 event: All About WebRTC

    On Wednesday, October 9 the SFHTML5 group is hosting an event focused exclusively on WebRTC. vLine’s CEO, Ben Strong, will be in the speaker lineup along with fellow WebRTC experts Chris Wilson and Dan Ristic.

    The trio will provide an overview, show you how to use WebRTC in your web apps, and give you an opportunity to ask your questions. A follow-up hands-on weekend workshop is also planned. Refer to the Meetup page for more details and registration information. 

    Chris, an Open Web Platform Developer Advocate working on Chrome, will kick off the evening with an Introduction to WebRTC.

    Ben will talk about “A Practical Guide to Building WebRTC Apps.” He’ll dig into the details of what’s required to transform the promise of WebRTC into a solution that works for you.

    Dan, a Developer Evangelist at PubNub, a leading provider of real-time networking technologies, will then cover details about WebRTC Data Channels.

  • September 18, 2013 5:09 am

    Live TV interview powered by vLine customer, In:Quality Media

    vLine customers are driving innovation in their markets in part due to our WebRTC video and audio platform.

    We recently heard from Kevin Leach, founder of In:Quality Media, a UK-based company that provides broadcasting equipment in the homes and offices of TV and radio contributors. Check out this example of how vLine is helping drive engaging, real-time connections.

    From Kevin Leach:

    On 22nd August we facilitated the world’s first live TV interview using WebRTC. We had spent the preceding months working with vLine to develop a browser-based app enabling live broadcast-quality streaming for our rapidly growing network of Remote Contribution Terminals.

    Business analyst Louise Cooper appeared live on rolling news channel Sky News from her home-office, answering questions from the studio anchor on a breaking story about card-protection refunds.

    In:Quality has opened new doors to connect experts to news stories. Our service allows them to appear on-air at short notice without the need to visit a studio or to have a live truck attend. A cost-effective internet-based streaming solution was required and has been developed using vLine’s unprecedented WebRTC experience and infrastructure.

    WebRTC has huge potential for the broadcast industry thanks to its native high quality, low-delay codecs and its ability to be decoded in any studio with a compatible browser. Traditionally, dedicated hardware and infrastructure has been necessary to achieve the same result, the cost of which has been prohibitively expensive. In some locations we’re reliant on ADSL connections with limited upload, but thanks to the efficiency and flexibility of the OPUS codec, we’re still able to achieve good quality wideband audio.

    Our Remote Contribution Terminals (above) consist of a small form-factor base unit with prosumer USB webcam and microphone. We’ve had a piece of bespoke software built to control the exposure, focus etc. We use remote access software to manage the equipment remotely so that the interviewee just switches the power on - we do the rest. There’s no need for a local screen, keyboard or mouse which helps reduce clutter, costs and the environmental impact.