Engaging in a Skype video chat with a group, where each person is in a different location, used to be part of their premium service. Now it’s free. To start, locate one of your friends on Skype. Then click the plus sign next to their name and choose “add people.” Start adding them and when you’re finished, click the call icon. For now, it works with PC, Mac and the Xbox One. Depending on the device, you can call people in three to 10 locations.
We’re not into video calling, but somebody must be. So we liked the idea of Skype’s new video messaging service. Rather than interrupt someone with a phone call, you can leave a video message. This service just came out of testing and is now available on computers and smart phones. To leave a video message, you and the other person have to be Skype users, which is free. Just click the plus sign next to their name in your contacts list to send a video message.
Good news for chatty Chucks and Cathys: Sony’s PlayStation Vita does free Skype video chats. It also takes incoming calls during a game. Studies show that gamers use their machines as much for social reasons as for games. Owners of the older Playstation and the “PSP” (PlayStation Portable), can’t do video calls because the PSP has no built-in camera.
GPhangouts.com has public places where you can hang out with others on Google Plus in a group video chat. We met a travel writer there, some business types and a guy speaking German. Some chats will have started by the time you get there, others are scheduled for the next day or a few hours later. Requires a Google Plus account to hang out. (You can request an invite at plus.google.com.)
Making free video conferencing calls on Skype used to be annoying, because you couldn’t include Mac users in your group. Now Skype has released a version that corrects that. Get everybody in the picture. The new version, Skype for Mac 5.0, has a mini toolbar that sits atop any photos, web pages or documents you have open. It lets you do instant messaging offline. Finally, Skype has a new contest: The prize is a $1,500 gift certificate at the Apple store. Visit bit.ly/dm6AAe to enter. More info on video conference calls at the Skype blog.