If you're the type of person who bemoans the impersonal nature of email or text messaging, Apple wants to offer you a little face time. At the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) today, Apple introduced iChat AV, adding audio and video conferencing capabilities to its iChat instant messaging application. A public beta of iChat AV is now available as a 3.6 MB download. Also introduced was the iSight, a compact video camera that takes advantage of iChat AV's audio/visual capabilities; the iSight is available now.
iChat AV supports any FireWire DV camcorder or webcam, according to Apple, and automatically configures itself during installation. Other iChat AV users appear in the Buddy List with audio or video icons beside their names to indicate the type of connection that's available. In addition to a default window size of 352 by 288 pixels (which can be resized during video sessions), the software also includes a full-screen mode. iChat AV will be included with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther when it is released later this year. Those who wish to stick with Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar and above can upgrade to iChat AV for $30 after 31-Dec-03.
That said, Apple would prefer that you not only upgrade to Panther, but also purchase the $150 iSight, a video camera designed to be mounted on Apple displays and laptops. The iSight includes an auto-focus lens with 640 by 480 resolution, a lens aperture of F/2.8 to collect more light in poorly lit situations, and a video frame rate of up to 30 frames per second (fps). For audio, the iSight includes a dual element noise-suppressing microphone. It's also small and light, weighing in at 2.5 ounces (63.8 grams).
We'll have more on iChat AV and the iSight in a future issue, but in our preliminary testing of iChat AV with various microphones and FireWire webcams, the application performed well, with the audio being both surprisingly clear and full-duplex.