Creative's InPerson: The next best thing to being there?

Video phone, videoconferencing--there's really no good vocabulary for discussing video communication over the Net without rendering your audience glazed and confused. Nor are there any glitzy new technologies to get their geek juices flowing. But Creative's doing its darnedest to spark some new life in a product category that never quite took off. And it seems like a pretty good effort, at that, with a product that strives to liberate videoconferencing from the tether of the PC or the conference room.

The company's portable InPerson conferencing system consists of a device that resembles a 1.6 pound, … Read more

The New England Patriots of Webcams

I tested four desktop Webcams this month and went into the reviews thinking that the differences would be slight given that the trusted Webcam isn't exactly new or cutting-edge technology. Like Tom Brady and company this year (but without the cheating), one Webcam, however, proved itself to be far superior to the rest of the competition. The Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 turned in the best image quality by far--particularly in low light--while also serving up the best software and build quality. It's like the Patriots, but with a strong running game. It's what Michael Scott might call … Read more

Putting a label on the latest weird trend

If there's one thing that's never in short supply on Crave, it's odd trends. But here's one that we never saw coming: labels.

Not only can we make labels using only a mouse, as we learned a few days ago, but now we can include photos grabbed from Webcams as well. Seiko has released a software update for its "Smart Label Printer" that works with many Webcam models on the market today, according to Electronista.

One day soon we suspect we'll be printing labels without the label maker.

WooMe opens up to everyone, let the cam lust begin

WooMe is opening up its doors to everyone this morning after being in private beta for the last few months. They were one of the presenters at the TechCrunch 40 conference back in mid-October and opened up to a little more than 100 folks who wanted to be a part of the dating site. Since then they've been ramping up the site, and have made a few updates, including a change in focus from dating to simply finding other people to interact with.

The underlying idea is that you've got a minute to talk to someone one-on-one via Webcam, and after that minute you move on to someone else. If you connect with someone, you can befriend them on the service, and can opt in to get in touch outside the site for further communication via private message.

Instead of one massive pool of users to sort out, the site manages everything through themed sessions that are created by users. Each session has a certain number of spots, and to be a part of them you need to sign up and be there when it starts. If you're not, someone else can take your spot, and potentially your next ex-girlfriend. Session topics range from singles looking to mingle by geographical area, all the way to folks trying to find babysitters or carpool partners. You can also scope out who has signed up to be a part of the session before you throw yourself in the mix. Despite the site advertising a minute per person, the session creator can dial up the time up to 3 minutes.

To help schedule the sessions, users can set a time when they want it to start. In order to aid users in remembering they've signed up, WooMe is launching an alerts system that will give users a heads up when it's time to hop back on the site. Currently users can set up a 10-minute e-mail alert, but there are also plans to add SMS and IM reminders (via a bot) to help users get a ping before a session is about to begin.

In addition to video, users can also opt for voice chat that comes in tandem with whatever picture they've associated with their WooMe account. Interestingly enough, the majority of a profile on WooMe isn't populated by information the user puts in; instead, it comes from other users who can use tags to describe them. Users have their own tag cloud, which gives you a quick snapshot of what others think of them. You can see this on their profiles, as well as while chatting with them in one of the sessions. Besides the big "no thanks" button when you're chatting with someone, this is the only real use of user ratings. Users can also reveal their age, location, and real basic traits like body type and social archetypes.… Read more

Mod My Life is so amazingly uncomfortable it's wonderful

I've really enjoyed seeing the lifecasting movement take off. I can't say I feel the need to visit these sites on a regular basis, but like a roller coaster built for children, they provide enjoyable moments mixed in with some less-than-incredible build-up. One of the newest entrants to the space is Mod My Life, which shares a lot in common with its other lifecasting brethren by mixing up live Webcam footage with user chat. The twist is that the person with the Webcam is an actor or comedian, and the audience gets to control what he or she is doing.

All the user-created actions are created and voted on by users, and they show up in an upcoming section that lets the group weed out the good ideas from the bad. The four most popular get dropped into a voting pool where users can vote on the item as many times as they like until the time runs out. The "Modstars," which are the people with the cameras strapped to their heads, then has to go do what people have told them to do.

While watching last night I was treated to several awkward moments of Modstar Jason Wilder Evans bothering people around the greater New York area before managing to somehow walk into what looked like an attempted robbery with a baseball bat. The robbery had just been broken up by the convenience store's security guard. We never really found out what happened, but the damage had been done, and I sat quietly in awe along with the rest of the viewers as Jason called the police and recounted what had happened with other witnesses.

The rest of the show wasn't nearly as gripping as that bit, but like the creators have told me, a lot of it depends on the Modstar, and other variables like location, time of day, and what ideas the community has got cooking. In many ways it's a lot like Justin.TV when they first started out. Far from what Justin Kan and company have expanded to now with their platform and live channel selection, Mod My Life is treading a slightly different path and trying to pack as much as they can into just an hour or less instead of going for daylong marathons. For that, I think viewers who are willing to base their watching around the "time slot" will be getting more bang for their buck (note: the site is free).

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3 minutes to find a potential mate with SpeedDate

Put romance and Webcams in the same sentence and we're often talking about sites that are neither safe for work, nor a proper replacement for face-to-face human interaction. SpeedDate (formerly known as "SpeedEdate") would like you to think otherwise, with their online speed-dating solution that gives you three minutes a pop with a grouping of daters via Webcam. The site has already setup more than 15,000 virtual dates after making its debut in late October.

Similar to WooMe (which is still in private alpha) dates are short, (hopefully) sweet, and one-on-one. SpeedDate will match you up … Read more

Skype and Logitech promise better video calling

Skype and Logitech have partnered, hoping to do for video calling what Loggins and Messina did for yacht rock. The beautiful music the two companies hope to create with their union is high-quality video calling, with promises of VGA (640x480) resolution and a smooth 30 frames per second. To get the goods, you'll need one of three Logitech cameras: the QuickCam Pro 9000, the QuickCam Pro for Notebooks, or the QuickCam Orbit AF and the latest version of Logitech's Webcam software, QuickCam 11.5. You'll also need the latest Skype client, version 3.6, along with a … Read more

Three laptop Webcams reviewed

Does your laptop suddenly feel outdated because your friends are skipping about town with laptops that feature integrated Webcams? (It's becoming increasingly difficult to find a consumer laptop without an all-seeing eye above the display.) If you'd like to keep pace with the Webcam-toting crowd--or engage it in a video chat--I reviewed three laptop Webcams this week that will do the trick.

The Logitech QuickCam Pro for Notebooks is the priciest of the trio at $100 (you can find it online for less) and is the hardest to keep affixed to your laptop, but its image quality more … Read more

Dell's new LCD: 20 inches and a Webcam

Dell released its first LCD monitor with an integrated Webcam today with the 20-inch Dell SP2008WFP. The 2.0-megapixel Webcam sits next to a microphone above the wide-screen display and can do video and photos and--with the included software--lets you engage in such activities as remote monitoring, motion detection, and time-lapse video capturing. The specs: 1,680x1,050 native resolution, HDCP support, a fast 2ms response time (gray-to-gray), and a high contrast ratio of 2000:1. The display features Dell's new silver color scheme and serves up four USB 2.0 ports in addition to DVI and VGA video … Read more

'Hercules' gives Webcam a lift

We think it's somewhat cheeky for a product to call itself "Hercules," especially when it's only a Webcam. It's kind of like Bill Gates wearing a Conan the Barbarian costume for Halloween. Nevertheless, we do admit that we're intrigued by the design of the latest product to bear the name.

The "Deluxe Optical Glass Webcam" has kind of a steampunk feel to it, with a glass lens that looks like something you might see on Captain Nemo's Nautilus. Yet its thorougly modern features include a 3x zoom, 1.3-megapixel resolution, a … Read more