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Connecting The Dots: WebRTC, Twelephone & Hangouts

We have invited the folks from Twelephone to appear as guests on the VUC call Friday, December 28th. If you’ve not heard of them, Twelephone is a new video calling service built using WebRTC and effectively leveraging Twitter as namespace. It’s just one of many new web communications applications arising from from the newly evolved WebRTC standard.


Chris Mathieu is the founder of the project. Chris has appeared on a number of VUC calls in the past. Chris has long been involved with telecom related APIs, including spending some time worth with the Voxeans who created Tropo.

Of course, having Chris & Co appear using a plain vanilla Google Hangout is possible, but that seems like setting the bar too low. It would be like phoning in his appearance via a cell phone even while at his desk surrounded by far better ways to communicate. No, I would rather use Twelephone in the presentation of the call. That would be the kind of “eating our dog food” that I’d respect and admire.

Living by this lofty set of standards may not be easy. At present nothing connects to a Google Hangout except Google’s Javascript client-side code. Even Biscotti, the hardware device that leverages Google’s XMPP and Google Chat, can’t connect to a Hangout. Really, I asked them.


I suppose all that means is that we’re on the cutting edge. There are no ready-made solutions available. Nonetheless, I have some ideas about how this might be accomplished. Earlier today I began to experiment with various approaches.

As I’ve mentioned previously I recently purchased a license for Telestream’s Wirecast software. Wirecast can mimic a webcam, which means that it can be a source of video for a Google Hangout. It’s fast becoming a leading tool in my use of video online.

Further, it has a companion application called “Presenter” that will stream the desktop of another computer, making it a source for the Wirecast session. The system audio output of the Presenter computer is included in the stream. That means that I should be able to bring the Twelephone session into the Hangout. It’s not clear if the other end of the Twelephone session will get the hangout audio.

I rigged a small experiment to check this out. I ran Presenter on my aged HP laptop, streaming to a Wirecast session on my new Windows 7 Pro desktop. For the best possible result I connected the laptop to the gigabit wired network.

hp-compaq-8510p-compSadly, the results were not spectacular. The HP laptop has a high-resolution display, running at 1920×1080 pixels. It was an nVidia equipped “mobile workstation” and so quite impressive when new, but that was over four years ago.

The sad fact is that Presenter seemed to suffer a lot of latency delivering the laptop screen to the Wirecast session. Also, the frame rate was low. This would be no way to convey a Twelephone video call. Clearly, Presenter is intended for use bringing things like Powerpoint into a Wirecast session, not for relaying full-motion video.

My next experiment will involve an alternative to Presenter. I’ll be using the HDMI output of the laptop to bring it into the session by way of a Black Magic Design Intensity Pro HDMI capture card.

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. “My next experiment will involve an alternative to Presenter. I’ll be using the HDMI output of the laptop to bring it into the session by way of a Black Magic Design Intensity Pro HDMI capture card.” – wil u post it?

    1. In fact, this was how I tried to conduct the interview on the VUC call Dec 28th.

      We had it working on a test call Dec 27th, but when the morning of the VUC call came we could not get the Twelephone session to connect properly. There’s some guess that there was a NAT traversal issue.Consequently, I do not have a recording of that very session to upload.

      What is it that you want to see? I could do a simple experiment with another Twelephone call. If I can get it to behave more reliably I could record and post any twelephone call. Or any Skype call, Vsee call or Google Hangout for that matter.

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