Although video communications have been around for a while, there has
recently been a resurgence in the field because of the improvements in
quality and the integration of video and VoIP capabilities over the
Internet. Eyeball Chat is one such application that enables face-to-face
interactions over the Internet for both personal and business use. No matter
how a user connects to the Internet (dial-up, DSL, cable modem, LAN, etc.),
Eyeball Chat should bring you quality video and audio communication. The
more bandwidth you have at your disposal, the better the video and audio
quality will be. Furthermore, the quality of the camera will affect the
overall video performance, although the Eyeball Chat software can aid that
We received a few accounts from Eyeball.com so that we could test various
aspects of Eyeball Chat, and we downloaded the software for our Windows 2000
clients. Because we downloaded with a T1 LAN connection, this only took a
few moments, as did the software installation. The whole process was quick
We also tried the software installation on Windows 98 clients and found a
bug when InstallShield tried to run the setup. This bug caused InstallShield
to stop. Technical support at Eyeball.com knew about the bug, so we were
easily able to solve the problem by deleting a specific folder in the "InstallShield
Installation Information" folder. The version of Eyeball Chat that we
were using was still in beta, so we assume that the bug was remedied in the
gold version, but it is worth mentioning.
It should be noted that the diagnostic software, DirectX v.7.0 or higher
should be installed on the PC in order to use the full functionality of the
Eyeball Chat software. DirectX is easily downloaded from the Microsoft Web
All of the help documentation is located at Eyeball.com's Web site. If the
software is already installed, you can access these files by pressing
"F1" on your keyboard or clicking the "?" button on the
software. This brings up a Web page that informs you of most of what there
is to know about Eyeball Chat through Get Started, Tutorial, and FAQ links.
These pages detail the functionality of the application rather well by
supplying information about the specific buttons in the software, and how to
accomplish certain tasks. Screenshots accompanied much of the information.
The following is a list of the key features of Eyeball Chat LE, which is the
free version of Eyeball Chat:
- Support of a proprietary media delivery technology for the purpose of
better video quality.
- Provision for a contact list to monitor online/offline status and to
enable users to quickly initiate a video chat session.
- A control of picture size, frame rate, and audio performance, and
other media quality attributes (to a certain degree).
The additional features of Eyeball Chat include:
- Multi-party conferencing -- up to six people can video chat.
- Video messaging -- record, send, and play video messages.
- Web-based access -- initiate video chat session and view video
messages from any browser.
Since some elements of Eyeball Chat were not ready at the time we were
testing the product, we stuck to reviewing the limited edition aspects. We
also examined a beta version of the multi-party video conferencing. After
opening the Eyeball Chat LE software, the main interface appeared, as did a
preview video window and a contact list window. These windows could easily
be moved around to anywhere on the monitor screen but could not be resized.
We added some Eyeball IDs to the contact list and were ready to make a video
call to an Eyeball representative... but were unsuccessful. We realized
right away that the problem was the firewall on our LAN. We opened up the
appropriate ports and were now really ready to go. The call connected with
the videos for both the sides of the call displayed. We clicked the little
button on the top left of the main interface (you can also right-click to
access these settings), selected "View," and checked
"Statistics." This brought up the video, audio, and connection
statistics for the call .
To test the latency of the VoIP call, we made another call across the lab
and timed the delay between when the voice was spoken and when we heard it
on the phone. The delay was less than a second and the sound quality was
good, as it was on the call to the Eyeball representative. These calls were
made using Eyeball Chat LE on both clients. We could not make an Eyeball
Chat LE to NetMeeting call because the VoIP protocol being used was
proprietary to Eyeball.com.
To improve the quality of a call, you can customize the Personal Quality
Profile for receiver priority, frame rate, picture quality, and audio
quality. You can also change the media settings, such as changing the
receive picture size, the speaker and microphone volume, and the option to
use audio only.
Next, we were ready to try the multi-party mode, which was a beta version
added to the Eyeball Chat LE software only for the purpose of our testing.
We clicked the "Begin Chat" button, checked the "Multi-party
mode" box, and selected the Eyeball contacts we wanted for the
three-way conference. The call connected and we could see the video for all
of the participating contacts. We were able to hear each other with little
echo even when we all spoke at the same time.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Some of the suggestions we have are already planned for Eyeball Chat v1.1.
These improvements include text chat in case the audio is not clear or not
working or for chatting with another person in the conference when someone
else has the floor. There also will be a link to Eyeball's Web site from the
contact list so that searches for particular Eyeball IDs can be made more
easily. In addition, there will be the option to snap together all of the
Windows of the client software to ensure a cleaner and more useable
interface. We noticed this last functionality missing from the second we
first opened the client, so this is certainly a welcome addition. The GUI
would also benefit from being able to resize any of the windows, not just
Other improvements include allowing Eyeball Chat to be firewall friendly,
being interoperable with other equipment, and allowing for application
sharing. Some similar applications have already adopted some form of a
firewall friendly feature. Even though Eyeball Chat is primarily intended
for home users, more and more homes are now using firewalls. Also, there is
use for this type of software in small offices. We understand that
Eyeball.com uses a proprietary protocol to optimize the audio and video
quality, but we think that the VoIP protocols out there have their merits.
Being able to interoperate with products such as NetMeeting would be very
beneficial to all users, and may allow for some form of application sharing
Eyeball.com is well on its way to making a fine video conferencing product.
Even though there is room for improvement, the video and audio quality can
be very good, especially with a first-rate camera. The settings are very
customizable, and its floating interface has its pluses. For these reasons,
and especially for the multi-party conferencing abilities, we think Eyeball
Chat deserves our highest honor.
To The February 2001 Table Of Contents ]