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Latest iPhone hack: Two-way video conferencing

By  Aug 22, 2007

Topics: Apple, iPhone

So you've got your new iPhone, and it seems that you can do just about anything with it and will never finish exploring its new features. But one feature that it doesn't have, one that a couple of brothers from Ecamm Network addressed last week at the C-4 developer conference in Chicago, is the ability to perform two-way video conferencing.

Glen and Ken Aspeslagh won first prize in the Iron Coder Live contest—a new addition to C-4, modeled after the popular MacHack conference sessions—for coming up with the best "hack" for the iPhone, this year's API for the contest (the theme: conspiracy).

The application these indie developers built allows a participant to make a phone call and launch the application (if a live conversation is desired). The participant captures video using the phone's camera and the software compresses it and sends it to a Web server, where it's sent to another iPhone (and vice versa), resulting in a two-way video conference.

But the application is only part of the picture. The iPhone, like most others, has a camera on the back and not on the front of the device, where a Web cam would be located. To solve the problem, the brothers hooked up a simple mirrored stand to the phone so the camera could be redirected at the user. The camera picture is then reoriented in software. Both viewers get a picture-in-picture display of the other video conference participant on the iPhone, in either landscape or portrait mode. Take a look at the photos on their Web site and demo on YouTube and you'll see how nifty the setup is. They've also included the source code for their contest entry.

Whether or not this develops into a real product is anyone's guess but it's obvious the interest in video conferencing for Mac enthusiasts is there. Maybe we'll see it as a regular feature on iPhone 2.0.