Group video call apps to make quarantine more bearable

Last Saturday Raquel Garca Chico had a birthday in Salamanca. Her friend Roco turns 27 years old. They were going to party to celebrate. But his plans were cut short before the advance of the


in Spain. Authorities asked the population to stay home to curb the spread and prevent the collapse of the health system.

The same happens since Friday in Argentina

. "We decided to postpone the plan. I started making cupcakes to put a candle on them and give Roco a surprise via Skype. Suddenly we told him that he had to connect to tell him what they had said on the news," explains Garca. With guitar and ukulele in hand,

seven friends were waiting for him in a group video call

to sing her happy birthday.

The same

passed with Len: for the quarantine, I celebrated his birthday

 surrounded by his family, face-to-face and goes on cell phones.

Home confinement declared by the health crisis has transferred social and work life to the digital sphere.


 is one of the reference video calling services. Allow them to speak

up to 10 people at a time

in the free version. But there are also many other alternatives. Just take a look on Instagram to see stories of users chatting with friends through a screen while they drink, play trivial or darts. Most images are accompanied by hashtags

#Stay at home


#I stay at home

, something that stopped being optional in Argentina once the quarantine was declared.

Raquel, in addition to using


To talk to her friends, she has done other activities through a screen: from teaching how to make square roots to her friends at the gym to having a daily coffee with her coworkers. For this last, use


. This cloud storage service allows you to perform for free

group video calls with 10 contacts

at the same time – only six with the camera activated.

There are those who choose the

video calls with the instant messaging service WhatsApp

 or by Instagram, which serve to make

video calls with up to four participants


Facebook Messenger

, also owned by Mark Zuckerberg, goes further. With it, you can interact with

up to 50 people

. Of course, only six can use the camera at the same time – the rest communicate only by voice. For iOS users,

FaceTime works with about 30 users at a time

. Google also has its alternatives:

the Duo app

 b is intended for

up to eight interlocutors

At the same time, while the Hangouts messaging service offers in its free version the possibility of having a conversation with up to ten people.

Trivial and other games

Pablo Garca, a 25-year-old from Avila, hastily draws on his mobile screen. First a stick figure. Then he puts it in a kind of rectangle held by ropes. And finally, together with his creation, he paints up and down arrows. Two friends follow the process from their smartphones at home. And they try to guess what it is about. After a few failed attempts, Mara was right. "It's an elevator!" He exclaims.

They are playing Houseparty

, an application in English from the video game and software company Epic Games.

Like them, thousands of users have used it in recent days. In fact, HouseParty has become the most downloaded application from both the Play Store and the Apple store. Your secret? Video calls of up to eight people and group games. Users can guess what a player draws in Pictionary, compete by answering Trivial questions, or play who is who. In this last game, a user has a card on his forehead and must guess what he is putting, following the tracks of his teammates.

For darts fans, there are options that allow you to compete with other users thanks to video calls. "All you need is your bullseye, darts, and a webcam with a microphone. The WDA will provide the rest. Playing a real game of darts against anyone in the world has never been easier and more accessible than it is now." explains on the website of one of these platforms. There are those who choose to make video calls for some of the aforementioned services while playing bingo or parchs online with the games they have at home or using other platforms.

Virtual classrooms

After the classrooms closed due to the coronavirus, there are teachers who have chosen to give their classes online. The University of Salamanca (USAL) has reinforced some tools to make it possible. Some teachers use a platform called

Blackboard Collaborate

 that allows scheduling sessions. "The students can see and hear me. I have the option to share my screen in case I want to show them a document or a presentation and there is also the blackboard function where they see what I write," says a USAL professor. Students can write questions in the chat and they have a tool called "raise your hand": "When they use it, I can choose whether I want to answer the question at that moment or if I want to lower it and postpone it."

There are also universities that have started to use Hangouts, from Google, so that students can follow the classes that their teachers teach from home. Another useful group video conferencing platform for this kind of virtual classroom is Webex. In this case, all the work is done in spaces where both teachers and students can send messages, make calls, have video meetings, use whiteboards and share files.

The cancellation of classes has not only affected colleges, institutes and universities. Elisa Snchez, 15, learns transverse flute at the conservatory in Vila. Her band teacher has chosen to teach through

Teams, from Microsoft

. This week they had the first one. To do this, the teacher divided the nearly 50 students into groups by instruments. In the transverse flutes there were 19. "In my group I could only see four people in video but I also listened to the rest. At first we tried to see if we could play all at once, but some people were late, it was a disaster and we decided it was not the best option, "explains the teenager. The teacher then decided to ask them to write down directions such as "make the notes shorter and the ending stronger." Later, he asked someone to do the test for the rest of his classmates and if it sounded good, everyone took note. The duties are not the usual ones either: "We have to record ourselves in video and send it to the teacher to see how we have made the notes and how it is going".

Telecommuting and meetings

As for the telework applications that allow video calls,

Zoom is the best known

. This is told by Nacho Rodrguez, one of the executive members of the World Telework Association (RWA). The application, which is among the most downloaded from the Play Store, is a good option for large corporations. "It is for companies with more than 50 or 100 employees. Sometimes there are meetings of more than 50 people that can be inefficient because you can only speak one by one. But with tools like this

one person can make an introduction and then separate those 50 people into subgroups

of five. And there may even be a facilitator who jumps from one group to another, "says Rodrguez, who is also the founder of the conference on telework Nomad City Gran Canaria.

For the

small and medium enterprises

and the self-employed, the expert recommends


. This platform for video calls "is designed for meetings of 10 people or less and is more limited." Still it is "one of the best options in terms of value for money." Both Whereby and Zoom have a free option and have different packages from $ 10 a month.

Rodrguez uses both platforms in his work. He usually has two meetings a day and explains that he always tries not to last more than an hour. He claims that, contrary to what may seem at first sight, teleworking reduces meetings because "they are no longer so necessary." "Communication goes from being synchronous to being asynchronous. Meetings are one of the great time thieves of regular organizations. In the end, if you occupy 10 people for 30 minutes, in total it is 300 minutes together," he concludes.


. Group video call apps to make quarantine more bearable – LA NACION

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