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Persistent Home Videoconferencing Solution?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the needs-big-red-off-button-too dept.

Communications 253

An anonymous reader writes "I'm moving very soon for work, and will be several hundred miles away from my young family for six to nine months. Obviously I'll travel back as often as possible, and there's always Skype and XBLA video, but the whole 'now it's time to talk to dad' thing seems ... a little weak. I was wondering the Slashdot community could help me come up with a more persistent solution. Ideally what I want is an always-on connection between a pc/monitor/camera/speakers in my old kitchen and my new kitchen, so if we're in the kitchens, we can see each other and interact semi-normally. (We're a kitchen-focused family.) Most solutions I can find time out pretty quick, or require some knowledge on the part of the users, and the tech-savvy people are only going to be in one kitchen, to put it politely!" (Read on for a few more details.)"I do have a reasonable number of Windows PCs and Macs (and game consoles), but no alt. OS machines, so something for retail OSes would be better — I haven't tested the PS3 camera for long durations, but I know the conferencing quality with a PS3 is pretty good, and that could be an option too. Any camera recommendations would be good. We have sweet access at our house, but it will need to be wireless to the kitchen from the router."

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Camera surveillance? (2, Interesting)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403466)

Maybe something for surveillance? It's basically what you want to do, just "in a good way".

Re:Camera surveillance? (-1, Offtopic)

astar (203020) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403528)

Yeah, but the whole idea strokes my paranoia. So we put out video of the subject in possibly various stages of undress, not only on wifi but maybe on a cable internet connection? And the undress might not be really the issue. Simple being nosy to plotting an intrusion are possibie motivators.. Do some encryption on the feed.

Re:Camera surveillance? (2, Funny)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403624)

or make sure to stream some ads every 5 minutes.

Re:Camera surveillance? (1)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403968)

You're undressing in the kitchen?

Re:Camera surveillance? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404130)

I think I saw a movie like that, didn't he get caught screwing a pie?

Re:Camera surveillance? (1)

astar (203020) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404198)

haha, ah I did say state of undress :-) Not everyone wears pj's and midnight snack attacks do happen to people. And even fully decent, you might not really want someone to see you in the morning before you do your makeup and deal with your hair.

And people on slashdot would not know, but sometimes there is a good reason to undress in the kitchen!

Re:Camera surveillance? Bandwidth bonus (2, Interesting)

kanweg (771128) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403736)

Nice idea. Such software may already support the feature that video is only sent when there is movement/change. So, you're not wasting bandwidth.

Perhaps this Mac software suits your needs []


Re:Camera surveillance? (0, Troll)

dziban303 (540095) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403800)

(We're a kitchen-focused family.)

What, so, fat?

Re:Camera surveillance? (4, Interesting)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403924)

I realize that ridiculing ordinary Americans with uninformed speculation never gets old, but these days the kitchen has replaced the living room as the center of the home. My Dad built his new house so that the kitchen was the centerpiece - the living room is only used for watching TV, really. It has a large central island with many seats so as to fit a lot of people. Sit around, read the newspaper (yes Dad still subscribes), drink coffee, play games, etc. Everyone who comes over raves about it and says they wish their home was the same way.

Re:Camera surveillance? (1, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404010)

Probably, so I'd start by recommending a wide-angle (maybe even fisheye) lens webcam...

Creepy (2, Interesting)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403476)

Sorry but that is creepy dude. I do the long distance thing, and trust me, I wouldn't even want what you suggest. But that being said I like to try and be helpful so my suggestion would be a Network Web-Camera which you can purchase from NewEgg (wired or wireless), which you'll be able to remote into, and then have a PC with Skype or Live Messenger running, with auto-answer enabled, that has your face / audio. Then get a router with Dynamic DNS support, you then visit the Dynamic DNS address on a particular port that you have forwarded to your network web-camera, and dial the Skype/Live Messenger account - which will auto answer. They can then speak to you by approaching the computer and talking into the desk microphone, and you can see everyone from the web-portal/Java Applet provided by your network web-cam.

Re:Creepy (4, Insightful)

Xacid (560407) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403520)

I'll have to disagree about your creepy statement (but I do appreciate still offering your advice).

Dads being gone, especially with little ones can have pretty large effects. I think it'd be kind of cool to still be able to have that "hey dad guess what!?" pop out of the middle of no where. It's those unscheduled moments that are going to win with a good set up.

Re:Creepy (1, Interesting)

odies (1869886) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403574)

It depends how old the kids are. Even when I was 6-7 years old it would had been really creepy and I would had felt weird knowing someone follows me from a camera.

But it's not just for the kids. What about his wife? Somehow I think she also doesn't like someone watching her every action via video camera. I wouldn't and I really doubt my girlfriend would either. It's a different thing when you're physically there, but cameras are creepy.

So why not just do the normal "enable video camera when needed" and call with something like Skype?

Re:Creepy (3, Insightful)

iksbob (947407) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403794)

He's not talking about following them around with the camera, or surveilling the whole house. He's talking about setting up a two-way link between two terminals in fixed, public (in the context of the home) locations. If someone doesn't want to be observed, simply don't stand in front of the terminal.

Re:Creepy (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404120)

It's only weird when it's one way. The key is to make sure that when you can see someone on the screen, they can also see you on their screen. If the screens are big enough, it's almost like a window.

Re:Creepy (1, Interesting)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403688)

I know exactly how I would have felt as a kid (even though that would have been inconceivably long ago for most readers) if I had discovered I was being observed any or all moments:

I would have taken steps to disable it. A blanket over the camera, and/or cables being snipped. Whatever works. Such a "persistent solution" is an intrusion. For instance, although I love Skype, I do not need my camera displaying my deshabille or the state of my house to the world. (Actually, the camera on my laptop has a discreet little piece of insulating tape obscuring the lens.)

Re:Creepy (4, Insightful)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404164)

I think we should give the OP the benefit of the doubt and assume he's got his family onboard with the idea. Assuming so, do (all of you expressing negative opinions of the OP's idea) have anything constructive to add, or are (all of you) just into expressing your opinion regardless of whether it solves the problem as requested?

Panasonic IP camera (2, Informative)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403488)

very IE dependent, but we had a setup with a microphone (internal to the device) and external speakers,

my wifes family from overseas could manage it without a problem
the remote viewer had 'click to talk' functionality- we'd be in the office and suddenly the speakers would crackle 'szia' and they could see the grandchildren and we could talk clearly...

setup was technical, using it was not...

video was one sided only..

We're a kitchen-focused family. (-1, Troll)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403502)

We're a kitchen-focused family.

You sound fat.

Re:We're a kitchen-focused family. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403534)

We're a kitchen-focused family.

You sound fat.


Re:We're a kitchen-focused family. (0, Offtopic)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403560)

Nope, I am a fairly typical scrawny nerdy fellow.

Re:We're a kitchen-focused family. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403632)

But a no longer anonymous scrawny nerd!

Re:We're a kitchen-focused family. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403650)


Re:We're a kitchen-focused family. (0, Offtopic)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403718)

Well you certainly have the social skills and tack of a stereotypical fat basement-dwelling nerd.

Re:We're a kitchen-focused family. (0, Offtopic)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403782)

And you have a total lack of ability to get a joke.

I said it only for humor value.

Re:We're a kitchen-focused family. (0, Offtopic)

AllergicToMilk (653529) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403870)

Maybe you shouldn't next time. You are not that funny.

Re:We're a kitchen-focused family. (0, Offtopic)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404000)

It's not like he was the only one thinking it.

Re:We're a kitchen-focused family. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33404048)

so you are the fat one :p

-- the comic jk cocaine troll

Re:We're a kitchen-focused family. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404162)

If you have to point out that it's a joke, it's not funny.

ROFL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33404200)

If your UID is any indicator, you are both much older and much fatter than anyone else in this thread. :)

Re:ROFL (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404224)

I'm older and fatter.

Re:ROFL (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404256)

While your written skills seem advanced for your age, you really shouldn't be using the internet without your mommy watching.

Skype + Auto Answer (5, Informative)

petree (16551) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403514)

Create a dedicated Skype account which is set to auto start video and accept calls from it's contact list, add your skype to that contact list and you're all set. All you have to do is click call whenever you're in your kitchen and there will be a video uplink. Runs on windows or mac with any old x86 box and webcam, pretty close to $0. Just make sure the PC doesn't go to sleep (more than $0).

Re:Skype + Auto Answer (3, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403570)

With Skype for...TVs [] it even begins to look like the old scifi dream...

Might be interesting if TVs/large displays on both sides are at the ends of tables.

Re:Skype + Auto Answer (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403770)

With Skype for...TVs [] it even begins to look like the old scifi dream...

Might be interesting if TVs/large displays on both sides are at the ends of tables.

Yes, I've used Skype and other video conferencing apps on a 56" HD TV. It really is cool to see larger-than-life representations of people on the other end. Kinda like being on the bridge of a typical Federation starship, where everyone you interact on-screen with is bigger than you are. Well, okay, like that minus all the nifty consoles, pointed ears, warp drives and hot Bantu women in miniskirts. But other than that.

Unless he's has a corporate-level Internet connection, he'll probably not want the thing transmitting continuously, just when someone is in the room. Might make sense, in that case, to interface the system with a motion sensor and only load the video conferencing application when the sensor picks someone up (or if you're using an open-source app, modify it to monitor the sensor directly.) I know some security programs that I've worked with (well, okay, pretty much all of them) for monitoring remote cameras have motion detect in software, but that's a different application entirely.

Re:Skype + Auto Answer (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404088)

Federation solutions aren't perfect [] (warning: NSFW, in a way, I think...well, mostly deeply disturbing)

All this makes me want to try videoconferencing using some decent projector - as long as it won't be in the field of view of the camera (fairly easy with many projectors & their mechanisms to correct image geometry when not projecting at a wall "head on"), the results should be really cool. Might even help with eye contact issue, if the camera will be somewhat "hidden" in the screen...

Re:Skype + Auto Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33404016)

Yeah, I was thinking just this. It'll last long enough each time you connect, and if it's auto-answer then it takes care of the "it's time to call" issue. The one reservation I'd have with that is that it's not just your own bandwidth you're wasting, but a company that provides a free service (it might have small ads, but you won't be viewing them). I imagine most slashdotters couldn't care less about that, but I personally try to avoid wasting other peoples' things. If I did that I'd probably buy some skype credit (that I'd never use). Is there a point to point program you could use with auto-answer? If I were to do something like this I'd just do the following: dynamic DNS, port forwarding (or VPN), point to point video chat program with auto-answer.

2 iphone 4? (1)

fkx (453233) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403540)

Isn't that was that thing is supposed to be for?

Re:2 iphone 4? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33404212)

No, I don't imagine Apple intended two iphones to be permanently mounted in two different kitchens with face chat always on. I don't think that particular use was their motivation. Would it work? Probably, but the dual survaniance camera idea is better.

what you want (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403542)

what you want is a cisco telepresence system
they are amazingly fun and give you that 'in the same room' feeling

everything else would just be some hacked together video chat.

I hate to say it, but (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403558)

quit your job, or move your family with you.

Re:I hate to say it, but (2, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403610)

I'm pretty sure that was his first idea, but for whatever reason, was unfeasible.

Re:I hate to say it, but (1, Flamebait)

BisexualPuppy (914772) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403734)

He prefers leaving his family for 6 months than losing his job. That's not "unfeasible", that's just "what he chose".

Re:I hate to say it, but (3, Insightful)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404174)

It can very easily be unfeasible, especially in todays market, and he already said he was young. Quitting a job for any reason at a young age without another job to move into is risky in the best of circumstances, and we aren't exactly living in the best of circumstances. Its risky for anyone, but particularly for someone that may not have the experience to be even looked at for a lot of other jobs.

In the choice between "Leaving my family for 6 months" or "Staying and forcing my family to live in poverty for the next 10+ years because I just didn't want to go" is there really a choice? If you actually do see a choice there I hope you never have dependents, and don't have them now.

Re:I hate to say it, but (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404186)

Yes, because in our dynamic and powerful economy there's no chance he might be doing it out of fear that he might otherwise be unable to support his family.

This would be why it's called wage slavery.

Re:I hate to say it, but (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403612)

I agree. If you already have this much separation anxiety, you're asking for nothing but grief and stress in your life by being apart from your family for so long.

Re:I hate to say it, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403668)


Wouldn't even be an option for me

Re:I hate to say it, but (1, Informative)

anethema (99553) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404254)

I agree to this. If you're working away from home this often, the chances of your wife cheating on you or leaving you increase tenfold.

"Lonely" is the absolute worst thing you can make your wife feel if you want to keep her, and is the reason most often given for infidelity.

Help me waste bandwidth (0, Redundant)

WebManWalking (1225366) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403606)

Do you have any idea how much bandwidth video consumes?

Re:Help me waste bandwidth (1)

mikestew (1483105) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403682)

Maybe my sarcasm detector needs calibration, but with a million kitten videos on YouTube, are we supposed to care how much bandwidth this guy consumes? On an individual level, it could be set up to be similar to running a torrent client.

I tried this a few times (5, Informative)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403628)

I live overseas, and a couple of times I tried to "sit in" on family gatherings (Thanksgiving & Christmas) by virtually "being there" via a webcam and wireless laptop. I literally had a seat in the living room with a laptop sitting there. It didn't work as well as I would have liked. Why? Well for one I couldn't move the webcam about, so as to look at people. Eye contact is very important, I discovered. It gets tiring staring at the same scene directly across from the laptop, and people can't be bothered to move you about. Sort of like being a head in a jar on Futurama - they all have Kabuki-style dedicated assistants to carry them (or robotic bodies). Second, as you're remotely in and your voice is tinny by being on a laptop speaker, it's kind of distracting for everyone else. It always seemed to sidetrack the discussion whenever I said anything. Maybe this was due to novelty, I'm not sure if your family would get used to it after time. Third, even though I was eating the closest thing I could get to a nice dinner (the fanciest bento box they had at the department store, like fifteen bucks which I would have never bought ordinarily), it still wasn't the same as having dinner with the family. Fourth, the time zones although if you go north-south this isn't an issue. I gave up after a few times and just telephoned in and the family handed the phone around until I had had a chat with everyone. Maybe if they fastened the laptop onto a Roomba or something that would have helped.

Re:I tried this a few times (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403838)

I agree with DNS-and-BIND. We (me and my girlfriend) used to play RPG with a group of friends and when we moved to another city we setup a skype call so we all could keep playing together. It was awkward, video quality was not as good as we were expecting. Sometimes there were frequent crashes, which was really annoying and took away most of the fun - it's just not nice to be interrupted when you are having a lot of fun... you can shrug it off at the start but in the long term it starts to hurt. Even with a high quality mic it's hard to hear people, specially the ones that are more far away, and it gets much worse with any kind of background noise. Mics simple can't compensate volume levels in the same way as we do and most of them are build to be used really close to one's mouth. Not having eye contact is definitely the worst part. It's hard to focus on who is talking and there's no way to move around. You get the feeling that you watching some event and can't really be part of it.

If you somehow manage to get a really high quality video feed on both sides and a microphone that works well on an open and not so quiet environment it may be possible to achieve a somewhat working solution. You and your family will still need to have patience and expect failures and crashes from time to time.

Re:I tried this a few times (2, Interesting)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403882)

Maybe if they fastened the laptop onto a Roomba or something that would have helped.

There are companies [] that offer such [] things. [] Probably impractical for the OP though.

Re:I tried this a few times (2, Interesting)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404300)

More on this idea: Designing Personal Tele-embodiment [] by Paulos & Canny at Berkeley. In particular, see the "previous work" section.

Re:I tried this a few times (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403914)

I understand that it won't work as it is basically looking for a technical solution for a social problem.

WowWee Rovio? (1)

okoskimi (878708) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403918)

Perhaps a WowWee Rovio ( would have worked better for you? Video is only 1-way, though.

Sounds like you want a media space. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403630)

It sounds like you want to create a "media space". This idea has been floating around since around the 1980's at Xerox PARC. See [] for more details. While this work is quite old, they may have good ideas on how to best integrate persistent video conferencing into a shared/public space. See also: [] . Sadly, both links are pay sites, but if you are studying at a university you may have access.

Is your wife tech savvy? (5, Insightful)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403642)

Is your wife tech savvy?

If you follow a nerdy slashdot suggestion and something breaks, can your wife fix the problem?

I would say just use iChat on two Macs. Keep it simple.

It's not what you asked, but maybe you should reconsider what you are asking.

Re:Is your wife tech savvy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33404230)

Shut up apple fanboi. He's already ruled out standard video conf solutions. Besides, he's hot gay, he has a wife and kids. Why would a heterosexual male buy gay apple gear?

Re:Is your wife tech savvy? (3, Funny)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404308)

he's hot gay

Well-placed typo!

Two Laptops? (5, Interesting)

jarich (733129) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403656)

I'm not seeing the most obvious answer. Put two laptops in the kitchen. Use wireless internet. Use laptops with built in video cameras. Run any of the IM programs that have video capability. Just leave the laptops turned on. Someone walks in, looks over, and says "Hi!"

Re:Two Laptops? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404018)

Hmm. That's onto something there. Have multiple terminals in different locations throughout the house, with different Skype accounts. If you want to get really fancy, hook it up with motion detectors so as to follow people throughout the house, or auto-connect to the location that has most recently sensed movement.

bogosort chatroulette (2, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403690)

you have your kids turn on chatroulette, and you do the same. if you don't see each other, and you're kids are still not mentally scarred, you bogosort until you find each other

Re:bogosort chatroulette (1)

Ironhandx (1762146) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404196)

... and you're kids are still not mentally scarred

I think you have a high opinion of chatroulette.

Re:bogosort chatroulette (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404272)

you have your kids turn on chatroulette, and you do the same. if you don't see each other, and you're kids are still not mentally scarred, you bogosort until you find each other

These could be your kids: []

Just use Windows Live Messenger? (1)

neile (139369) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403754)

If all you need is a persistent video stream between two locations, isn't this just setting up a PC/laptop with a webcam in each kitchen, openening an IM video chat session, and leaving the session up and running?


NetMeeting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403766)

what about NetMeeting?

have fun

Sounds pretty inconvenient. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403774)

What if you or your wife want to bang someone on the kitchen table?

ASUS AiGuru SV1T (1)

davemc168 (998032) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403788)

Seems to be what you need...all in one unit.

Re:ASUS AiGuru SV1T (1)

myocardialinfarction (1606123) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404028)

A link: [] . In the small print, though: "Unlimited calling: All calls are subject to Skype's fair usage policy which is set at 10,000 minutes per month (with a maximum of 6 hours per day)." Still, something to consider. Good luck.

LifeSize Express (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403810)

We have always on video for at least one person at my work, it's as though he's sitting at his desk, but he's actually 500mi away. Works very well.

Telephone (1)

Alcoholist (160427) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403814)

Keep it simple, mate. Use a telephone. Or Skype. If you want to see pics of the family, have them email them to you. Gmail account is good for this. Having dad call around dinner time could become a very treasured memory for the family. Also remember, you're the one who's taken the remote job, you didn't have to do that.

Now, if you are thinking surveillance, that's a whole different ball of wax. Might want to have a chat with the fam about that.

His wife should insist on the bedrooms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403816)

to make sure he's not up to things more than work while away. It's not like a girlfriend would be in the kitchen anyway.

Just don't leave for 6-9 months (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403824)

If you cared about your family, you wouldn't leave for 6-9 months at a time.

On the other hand, a video surveillance system would be great for watching your wife get fucked rotten by your neighbours, and whatever delivery and repair men happen to come by. Better than porn, and you'll have something to fight about in the kitchen when you get back.

Re:Just don't leave for 6-9 months (1)

Diaghilev (1766016) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403920)

You're not being very helpful. Or friendly, for that matter. Jeeze, who pissed in your cereal?

Or judging by the content of your post, cheated on you while you were away?

Re:Just don't leave for 6-9 months (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403976)

"If you cared about your family, you wouldn't leave for 6-9 months at a time. "

I'll put this kindly:
You're an idiot.

If you and family are so desperately co-dependent that being gone for less than a year is going to break things, you have much worse issues than being gone for a bit. Economic survival nowadays often means going to where the work is.

Re:Just don't leave for 6-9 months (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404232)

And if anyone in Washington actually gave a damn about family values then making someone choose between unemployment in a brutal job market and being separated from family for months on end would be strictly illegal. But guess what?

So, what would you suggest as an alternative?

OpenMeetings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403874)

Openmeetings should do what you want, and be more controllable than Skype.

It allows for encryption, for authentication, and it lets you do all sorts of nifty things.

Get a decent webcam on each side, and you're in business.

Consider security cameras (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33403942)

I use security cameras in my home, and watch them on the internet remotely.

Buy a set of security cameras with sound included. Most decent DVR security recording systems (QSee) have webservers to allow you to check in on your camera on the internet. That's only a one way street though to show you a picture of your house. Costco has a few models, but pretty limited as compared to smarthome and qsee online.

There may be a wireless survelliance variety that allows you to plug into the internet easily and monitor remotely.
DLink can host their cameras via Ip connection. Or use your MS homeserver as a DVR

Presence (2, Interesting)

RJFerret (1279530) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403974)

Since there have been useful direct suggestions already, some of which have pointed out the liability of not actually feeling "there" by virtue of separation by screen, I have an alternative that can actually help you feel together, as if you are both in the same place (although not useful for kids).

"Second Life"

Lots of people in long distance relationships use it to actually feel as if they are together sharing space. Businesses have found the same thing, instead of feeling the "distance" video conferencing confers, everyone feels as if they are in the same room.

You can present yourself how you desire and decorate how you all desire including have pics of kids on the nightstand. You can have shared experiences like going to live music events, dancing together, attending Burning Life (the virtual Burning Man alternative), participating in games or treasure hunts, watching videos, sailing, amusement parks, exploring different places, etc.

You can even explore intimacy, including in ways you might not feel comfortable in your own bedroom. (I know a couple who both logged on in their apartment together, one in one room, the other in the living room, who enjoyed certain adult activities that just made them giggle were they trying them in their own bedroom together.)

The only big catch is there is a significant learning curve, many people log on and try it, to never log on again--so you might not "get it" (it seems more women and stay at home moms do).

But I can tell you that it's amazing how good a virtual hug feels when someone gives you one and you virtually experience it happening, far more than a verbal "love you" or textual "*hugs".

I know there are many here who ridicule Second Life, but this is an area in which it excels, and I know of no other similar substitute--plus it's free!

Use ROVIO (1)

Unkyjar (1148699) | more than 4 years ago | (#33403996)

I think you'd probably want something like Rovio. []

Re:Use ROVIO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33404204)

I think you'd probably want something like Rovio. []

or better yet, build yourself a texai robot:

Faux Portal (4, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404006)

I would use projectors not screens. Set up a whole wall of the room (or a large bordered portion) to act as a window.

The goal is to have it close enough to something that people are comfortable with allowing for some suspension of disbelief. Working towards that end have the camera in each room in a similar position to make it as close as possible to acting like a window. Stick a pointless frame/trim on the wall to encourage the illusion. Continuous lines and such when standing and looking into the 'window' from the most common position are important. Similar rooms would help as well. Or common elements ... little things like cameras being the same height off the table are important to make it feel continuous.

It would not be the same thing as a window of course because of the lack of 3d. One thing you could do though to partially alleviate this would be to use head tracking to determine how close you are to the camera and as you move closer have it zoom to match the right field of view that you would expect. This would help add some realism. Another thing you could do would involve 3d sound recording + reproduction which is doable. It makes the connection feel more real if they can hear you move across the room.

More expensive the better pretty much. Costly internet connection helps a lot. Good camera and microphones would be good. Good projector would be very important. Fancy business telepresence stuff probably is good and expensive too.

I'm sure a good driven programmer/engineer could set this up and get it working smoothly with under 20k and a month or so ...... But it'd be pretty damn cool!

Re:Faux Portal (1)

pla (258480) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404236)

I would use projectors not screens. Set up a whole wall of the room (or a large bordered portion) to act as a window.

...If he has no practical limit to cost.

I got rid of my TV and moved to a projector about two years ago (needed a new TV and discovered that a decent projector costs about 2/3rds what a decent TV with half the screen size would). And I absolutely love it, no regrets, but I watch very little TV, basically just one or two hours every other day or so, perhaps four hours on a rainy weekend day.

And compared to a modern TV, the biggest problem with projectors comes from the cost-per-hour, not the cost up front. Between drawing 800W, and having a $300 bulb rated for only 2000 hours of use, you can realistically expect projector to cost you $500 a year for "typical" American-style TV watching, or over $2000 a year for 24/7 use. And that ignores the increased load on your AC, if you live somewhere warm (800W will easily raise the temperature of a small room by 10-15F). And in the FP's case, multiply that by two.

So in this situation, even though I recommend to most of my friends that they switch to a projector next time they upgrade the TV, I'd say go with an expensive-up-front 50-60" LCD TV (which still have backlights, but they draw 100-150W and last for over 50K hours). It will save money in the first year alone.

Not very secure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33404044)

This isn't very secure, but something like might work (1)

TornCityVenz (1123185) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404046)

Check out [] one channel going either way seems like it would work.

iChat won't time out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33404058)

iChat on the Macs has kept two of our offices chatting for a few months now - without needing to be restarted.

Great and cool idea to share a talk or a drink (1)

Chimel31 (1859784) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404066)

It needs some motion detectors on both sides to start the video call automatically when both sides are active and you're set.
The Asus AiGuru SV1T just wouldn't work for this purpose, you need a real screen and good sound so that any member of the family can approach the screen and start speaking to dad or dad speaks to the family, no handheld device.
You can use the remote monitor to leave text, audio or video messages visible to the whole family, or use it for any normal "kitchen" use, such as Internet recipe lookup, shopping lists, tasklists, digital post-its, online radio, music, TV, you can even use it at the office during the lunch break, etc. Sounds like there is a potential for a great app.

I don't see anything creepy with this kind of application, and you can always stop the program if necessary, or mute the sound on any side.
The only "creepy" thing is that most people talk to the screen, not the camera, so until some manufacturer comes with a monitor with a camera embedded within the screen, you will always have this unfocused side look that is slightly creepy when you talk to a person.

Keep it simple (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404104)

Some years ago I saw a paper (maybe ACM Siggraph) on something related. A meeting room had a video camera every few feet and the stitched together signal was then projected from a few projectors onto a wall. I made it seem as though you were looking at another room, with a table and the people sitting behind it. Using multiple cameras / projectors (and maybe rotating their orientation) allowed a big portion of the room to be transmitted, while maintaining enough resolution to see their faces, it was all about life size.

I think I understand what you want, though some people are talking about it being creepy, you might want to arrange for some time of day when two rooms can be connected similarly. This couldn't be done in the kitchen of course. Maybe what you want is something simple. A button can be pushed from either side and it will start the link, then depending on the age of your child they can run and ask you a question. Maybe it is easiest to just have a Mac display on the kitchen table, maybe with a usb button like the griffin powermate to start and stop the connection. All the time on is going to be a distraction to everyone, is the screen going to be on when the kitchen is dark, etc.

Probably Skype or iChat will be easy and give you high quality. If you can script it with AppleScript and get a PowerMate button then it should be easy.
Besides AppleScript I'm not sure what you can use but Quartz Composer seems to be able to use the Apple Remote and can be used for motion detection.
There seem to be packages for the Mac that can do motion detection as part of the video streaming too. Logitech I believe makes a Skype compatible camera on a stalk with high resolution that swivels and zooms to track. That is, it is so high resolution that you can probably pan from your side within the image.

Hope this helps. My guess is you do not want to have a hot, loud projector running all the time somewhere so forget the augmented reality thing, and also an iPad would be great but it seems too limited camera and software wise and maybe cpu wise now. But check it out possibly you could plug a camera into it and maybe there is a skype app for it. Otherwise hide the computer under the table.. Hope this helps.

P.S. I found an Applescript Skype library [] though haven't looked into it at all. Also google for mac os x camera motion, this may help too. Don't see encryption much. Also don't forget to get a dynamic dns account for both computers or else, with ichat you could do without, just use to set up the connection.

Words of support (4, Insightful)

Shoten (260439) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404132)

I'll be honest; I don't know the solution to your problem. But I've been reading the replies, and between people giving you career advice (without any concept of what your job is, how much you love it, how hard it may be to change it, etc.), disregarding the flamingly, ass-poundingly obvious (normal IM won't work because you have to be close to the laptop, it times out on its own, etc.), or simply telling you that what you're asking about is creepy, I can see you have your work cut out for you.

Hang in there, man...and remember, this very thing that you are doing, this clear and persistent description and communication of a need, is what drives innovation in the IT and consumer electronics industries. Go for it, and keep it up until you get what you want!

Ojo Video Phone (1)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404182)

Its super cool and uses basic broadband : []

Use your webcam for CCTV (1)

kelarius (947816) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404210)

A quick google search showed several free "Turn your webcam into a CCTV" products that may fit the bill. Most of them allow for internet transmission and while I'm not sure about their longevity, It may be another option.

WowWee Rovio (1)

ccandreva (409807) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404234)

Not a complete solution, but possibly part of a solution. WowWee (The company that made the Robosapian) has a mobile webcam 'robot', the Rovio []

They sell it for pretty much your situation. So, whenever it's wondering around, the family can know "Dad is here !"

Rovio - WiFi Roaming Bot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33404248)

How about the Rovio - WiFi Roaming Bot from thinkgeek. Then you're not limited to the kitchen. 1 way video tho.

The Future... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404260)

Sounds to me like you're trying to virtually join 2 separate houses together. Perhaps this is the future for all of us.

Seems to me that always on web-cam solutions have been around for a decade or more. Some number of young women paid for their college educations that way.

Dixie cups are cheap. (1)

Anonymous Dastard (1887496) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404266)

Perfect the cup-string-cup method to the point of full duplex audio and video transmission!

x10 or PS3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33404288)

What about cameras? They seem to offer multicam solutions as well. I know they used to have some scary voyeuristic ads but I believe the product to be useful in the right hands.

Lastly a Sony PS3 with camera will work with your current TV. You can also leave it running Folding@home during the day. It also gives your family a nice BluRay player, web browser, media centre and gaming system. No monthly charges aside from your Internet connection and it has wired and wireless networking.

Be careful what you wish for (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#33404306)

you might "walk in" to see something you didn't want to. Or even worse, one of the "home team" might catch something from your (remote) end!
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