Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Exergame Network's Google+ Hangout Test

The Exergame Network (TEN) is a non-profit, non-affiliated exergaming advocacy that's very forward thinking. Not only are we on the cutting edge of exergaming technology, research and implementation, we're on the cutting edge of open and free collaboration.

On the regular TEN Skype call this week I wanted to push these boundaries again. Some things we try don't work so well and some things we try work so well they are adopted by the group going forwards. The technology I wanted to try out is the Google+ Hangout. Many people have seen Google+ as a Facebook competitor, but the more astute see it as a competition for Skype.

Think about how Google allows free and open collaboration, with email, Google docs, Google Calendar, Google Voice and not to forget YouTube itself. It makes sense that these technologies are offered in one place, and that place is Google+.

The Hangout feature is multi-way video calling, with the added aspects of YouTube sharing and text chat. TEN tried out all of these capabilities with members as far apart as Australia, UK, Hong Kong and the United States. We started the conference call on Skype, as usual, but broke out to Google in the last half hour. The mechanics of getting onto a Google+ Hangout were a little challenging, as most people had never seen this technology before. I had the advantage of using this earlier with great help from Stephen Yang. Here's what you need to do:

1. Get a Google account (goto and signup!)
2. Be invited to Google+ (ask us on and we'll add you, or ask me directly if you have my email address for a quicker response!!)
3. Add TEN's Google+ profile to your circles; Don't forget to log into G+ first ;)
4. Check out the profile stream and you'll see (when a call is on) a big green button to "Join this hangout".
5. Equally you can be invited personally, in which case the option to join will come over the notifications stream.
6. The first time you use Hangout you'll need to download and install the Google voice /video / chat add-in. This works for any OS and browser. (We had PC and Mac users with Mozilla, Chrome and Safari all communicating together.

That's about it! So how did the call go? Here's what we found; It all works! The video streaming was sometimes a little jumpy but the product is still only in beta. On the whole the quality was excellent, and I've noticed an improvement from earlier one to one tests with Stephen.

The chat option was, as one would expect, functional and useful, although there did not seem to be an option to save the transcript as you can refer back in Skype. Equally you couldn't add people into the conversation "to catch up later". You have to be on it to be in it.

The YouTube sharing option was very cool, with an option to watch the video playing. This function I could easily see would make a great platform for presenting, although we has videos of dancing kittens to get us started (Thank for sharing Floyd!!). Thanks also to Robin for some great views over Hong Kong harbor, Scott for being our ab-inito guinea pig, and Brett (for getting dressed!!)

Where do we go from here then? The first thing to do is get a good time and day for the call. To help decide this we've put a couple of polls up on Facebook. First choose the DAY you prefer by voting in the poll, next vote for the best TIME for you.

We didn't just play with new technological toys, on the Google+ and Skype call's we had an excellent update on the Australian Games For Health scene, which sets the arena for the next GFH event; Games for Health Europe. We also discussed the benefits TEN can have for GFH conferences in providing an ongoing collaboration to support exergaming and the conferences themselves. More on this later!

The call was a great success, I think, and once again a testament to the passion and dedication of the people that make The Exergame Network what it is.

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