SmartVP videophone for deaf gets nationwide release

Let's face it: It doesn't matter how high quality the video is. Chatting over Skype or FaceTime doesn't do a lot of good if the call is between the hearing and the deaf and only the latter know sign language.

Now, following a successful release in California in April, the SmartVP videophone by Purple Communications is available free of charge to the deaf and hard-of-hearing nationwide, and it manages to solve the signing conundrum.… Read more

Game on: Samsung's second to market with Android-based Skype HD videophone for TVs

LAS VEGAS--A few days ago, we wrote about how Tely Labs, a startup out of Silicon Valley, had launched an Android-based Skype HD video phone for TVs. Well, the $249 TelyHD now has company, as Samsung Techwin America has introduced a very similar product, the InTouch camera system, for $50 less.

Like the TelyHD, the Samsung InTouch is designed to be hooked onto the top of your flat-panel TV, runs on the Android operating system, offers Wi-Fi connectivity and 720p video, and has the Skype application integrated right into the unit. The service is free, and if you're a Skype subscriber already you can log in immediately and start making video calls.

Also like the TelyHD, the InTouch comes with additional preloaded apps, such as YouTube, Google News and Weather, and full Web browsing, plus it can display photos stored on a thumbdrive (there's a USB slot on the back of the camera).… Read more

Skype on TV: Will the videophone finally be reality?

The imagined inventions of Victorian-era French novelist Albert Robida may be coming closer to reality.

Who, you ask? Robida was an illustrator and writer for popular science-fiction magazines, and is sometimes compared to Jules Verne. In his 1890 novel "Le Vingtieme siecle. La vie electrique," he described something called a "telephonoscope." Since then, we've seen telephonoscopes--basically videophones--in everything from "The Jetsons" to "Blade Runner." What we haven't seen is the videophone in our living rooms.

That may finally be changing.

The common use of videophones could happen through three technologies that separately aren't exactly considered bleeding edge today: high-speed Internet, a television, and Skype. Samsung says it will put the VoIP calling service Skype as an application on its televisions, allowing phone calls to be made on camera right from a couch, just like Jane Jetson talking into her TV set. The Samsung Skype-enabled TV follows similar announcements from Panasonic and LG at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The models will range from to $1,200 to $2,000 for Panasonic's set. Samsung and LG have not yet announced how much they will charge.

The Skype on TV application should work similarly on all three models, which in turn should closely mimic the version of the application that many people use to make free PC to PC calls, or for a fee, PC to landline. Skype accounts are free to set up and can be activated using the TV's remote control right on the screen. The video calls will also be free, as will voice calls between Skype users. Using Skype to call traditional landline and mobile phones is a few cents per minute. Calls can be answered while watching a program, but it's not yet possible to both talk and continue to watch uninterrupted.

By the time these models actually hit stores in late spring there should be three TV makers offering Skype on their TVs. And not just any three TV makers, but the world's largest overall (Samsung sells practically one of every five TVs sold), the leader in plasmas (Panasonic), and LG, which is close behind Samsung, selling 15 percent of all TVs. … Read more

BT's videophone--will anyone bite?

As our extended family at Crave UK notes, the promise of a video phone seems about as old as Alexander Graham Bell. We too remember seeing one as kids at Disney's Tomorrowland circa 1970, when it was said to be just around the corner.

So it's perfectly understandable for the "BT Videophone" to be met with appropriate skepticism--or, as our continental cousins say, "piffle." BT is offering two models, a base version for 150 pounds and one with a Web browser for 200. (That's almost $300 and $400 to us Yanks.)

But the … Read more