iChat AV, iSight, and FlashCom

iChat AV/iSight
People keep badgering me to buy webcams, and I'm always glad when they do. It seems like just yesterday that Jeremy Allaire insisted I get hold of a Logitech QuickCam in order to try out the video capabilities that were latent in Flash 6, and that would be unlocked by the then-imminent Flash Communication Server MX (1, 2). In fact, that happened a year ago. The FlashCom server has since been updated to version 1.5, which reportedly makes a number of improvements.

I haven't had a chance to try FlashCom 1.5 yet, but now I'm curious to take a look. The reason is that I got my arm twisted again, yesterday, to buy another camera. This time Steve Gillmor did the arm-twisting. The problem was that Apple's new iChat AV only likes FireWire cameras. My USB QuickCam does work with the TiBook (once I acquired the driver), and I've used it to have an OhPhoneX conference with Paul Venezia. The results weren't great, though, and I really wanted to try iChat AV, so I picked up an iSight today. It's a sweet little device, which is consolation for my later discovery that Ecamm could've made iChat AV work with the Logitech.

As everyone says, the iChat AV/iSight combo delivers an awesome experience. I'm not any kind of AV expert, so I can't even try to impress you with details about framerates, synch, or any of that stuff, though I should probably mention that we were both on DSL, me with a 256kbps up-and-down link that does somewhat better than that, and Steve with what appeared to be a 128kbps up-and-down.

What I can say is that 1) it all worked correctly, without any fuss whatsoever, and 2) it delivered enough interactivity to make the experience a useful approximation of face-time. And really, that's all that needs to be said.

Now, of course, I've got the itch to marry these two things. iChat AV is a wonder, but it's self-contained. You can't (yet) build apps around it. The FlashCom server is a wildly productive way to build apps that use videoconferencing (and recording and playback of AV streams) as elements of applications that also share event-driven GUI widgets with small groups. Of course FlashCom is intimately tied to the AV features built into the Flash 6 player, which doesn't yet even recognize the iSight camera so far as I can tell (1, 2). So I'm not sure how these two technologies can come together, but I'd love to see it happen.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/08/01.html#a762