Video chat allows you to see and hear the people you're communicating with in real time. Whether you're talking with a family member or collaborating at work, video chat can add a personal touch to your conversations. Just like voice chat, it's included in many IM and chat services, and it's often free.
Like voice chat, you'll need a microphone and speakers, or a headset that contains both. You'll also need a webcam so the other person can see you. Many computers have a built-in webcam, usually located just above the screen. There are also inexpensive webcams that connect to your computer's USB port, which can be purchased at any store that sells computer hardware and electronics.
Generally, video chat will require a broadband Internet connection. The faster your Internet connection, the better the video quality. With slower connections, the video can become choppy or may not work at all.
With some services, it's possible to video chat with multiple people. This is often called group video chat or video conferencing, while the meeting itself is often called a webinar (short for web seminar). It's often used in the workplace, but you can use it anytime you want to collaborate with a group. However, you should be aware that some services charge extra for this feature, and it may require a faster Internet connection.
If you're giving a presentation, you can even share your screen with the people you're talking to. That means they'll see exactly what you're seeing on the screen, whether it's a PowerPoint presentation, a photo, or a spreadsheet. Screen sharing is also useful if you're having a problem with your computer, as it can help others see and identify the issue.
Will video chat work for your needs? Review some of the pros and cons to help decide:
There are a variety of services that provide voice chat. The most well-known service is Skype, but others include:
If your friends and family already use voice chat, you may want to ask them which service they use so you can sign up for the same one.
If you are interested in using video calls and group chats, we have tutorials on the following: