Google Hangouts is Google’s new enhanced video chat service. If Google+ Circles is the Google equivalent of Facebook, then Hangout is the Google equivalent of Skype. To make Google’s video chats more appealing than its competition, the company is showcasing apps that are meant to show off the power of video chat. For instance, Cacoo is a very cool diagramming tool, and SlideShare is a presentation-sharing app.
As far as “family-friendly” apps go, Scoot & Doodle on Hangouts is the only option in the Google+Hangout world, at least for the time being. It offers a chance to doodle on the screen while video chatting. I like to call it “collob-a-draw”. The technology is pretty cool. I chatted with two Scoot & Doodle folks in three separate video chat windows while we all collaborated on a drawing on a shared screen floating above us. The idea, says [email protected] co-founder Christine Egy Rose, is for families to do something natural together online.
The tools of the paint box program are still pretty simple – a lovely color palette, a few brush sizes (all round brushes) and an eraser are the major components. A blank screen can be daunting (and not just for kids) – but after a bit you’ll find there’s something zen-like about doodling while you chat. Inventive families could easily create a game of Pictionary or Hangman. There’s no text capabilities for labeling a drawing, no stamps or stickers, and the circular brushes are pretty limiting, but I the company expects to add these shortly. Doodling sessions can be saved and shared to sites like Twitter and Facebook, and unlike the usual my-turn/your-turn sessions of other games, the real-time drawing together provides a unique experience.
If you’ve got a web camera and internet connection, just set up a Google+ account (do this as an adult, not a child, and be careful to always supervise young children as they play). Start a family hangout with invited friends or relatives. This step lets you video chat. Hit the Apps button within Hangouts and select Scoot&Doodle (or whatever other app you’re into). If you’ve been sitting on the fence about family video chats, it’s well worth the extra steps.