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A few days ago the group brought along their devices to our weekly meeting for a Google+ Hangouts trial. After dismissing the odd TV remote control (define “device”!), we settled down to discover the potential liberation and some of the hang-ups of Hangouts.let's hang out together

The bottom line is that you need a Gmail account to use Google+ Hangouts. If you’re not keen on joining the Google kingdom, and typically refuse to watch a YouTube video or participate in digital piñata bashing, then you’re out of the party, or hanging.

After figuring out which of the devices had the Hangouts app pre-installed (and working through the download for iPads and iPhones where this is currently not the case) and whether any carrier required a particular phone to be accessing a data network (and subsequently logging in to the local Wi-Fi) and then trying to remember which of our multitude of Gmail accounts was set up with a public-facing Google+ profile… well, then we were almost ready to go.

It was fairly easy to connect with people already in our circles and intuitively find others – especially if they had already taken the step to upload recognizable profile pictures of themselves or happened to be using the Gmail address that you associate with them – and invite them to the experiment. As we discovered, only one person ought to take the lead at a time, otherwise you could end up getting your invitation wires crossed…

Starting with the chat function allowed those quickest off the mark to type amongst themselves while others were still grappling with the Google jargon. Then, before we could disperse to a safe audio distance, the first video chat trials were underway to much reverberation and tinny echoing. After turning down the volume so that we wouldn’t all have to leave the room, our next goal was to look each other in the eye using only the screen in our hands. Let’s just say, until digital cameras track eye-to-eye movement we are going to have to live with the parallax fact that eye contact is best left for offline dating.

It didn’t take long for the iPad users in the room to break away for an exclusive FaceTime sub-meeting, while others just wanted to swap the hype for Skype.

When at some point I suggested that everyone try this at home (aka back at the office on a real computer, laptop or something else with a full-size screen, webcam and microphone attached) I was almost booed out of the room! Mobile, it seems, is here to stay.

Of course it all depends on your objectives – marketing and otherwise – and why you’d be using any digital platform to connect audio-visually, but I maintain that if you want to discover all the capabilities of Google+ Hangouts and produce at least a semi-professional podcast, webinar or live broadcast, you might not want to be relying purely on your smartphone or tablet to get going.

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