Nine Ways to Make Video Calls on Your Big-screen TV

Nine Ways to Make Video Calls on Your Big-screen TV

It’s hard to think of a technology that was more important to our lives during the COVID-19 pandemic than video calls. And even if we finally get back to “normal”, chances are high that video calling will still be a key tool in both our careers and personal lives.

But despite the prominence that video calling has gained, it is remarkable that so few of us do this activity on the largest screens in the house: our televisions. By “remarkable” I mean ridiculous. And when I say ridiculous, I mean how virtually none of the tech companies that make smart TVs, game consoles, or streaming media devices (yes, Microsoft, Apple, and Google, I’m looking at you) have made progress in making video calling in TV is as easy (and versatile) as doing it from a computer or smartphone.

However, there are several ways to transfer these calls to a television. Some are stylish, some are awkward, but neither is the perfect solution.

How to make a video call on Facebook Portal TV

It’s weird to think that Facebook, a company better known for its massive social media and messaging presence than its hardware, has one of the best ways to video chat on your TV, but it does. The company’s $ 150 Portal TV is a device that incorporates a webcam and microphones and perches on your television. The smart camera can automatically follow you as you move around the room, and built-in apps like Netflix and Spotify make it a handy alternative to other streaming devices.

You can use it to call other Facebook portal devices, but it also works with other video calling apps, like Zoom, BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, or Webex.

Naturally, because it is a Facebook product, you can also initiate calls through Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

Interestingly, even though Amazon Alexa is built into Portal TV, Alexa-based video calling is not supported. Unfortunately, neither Google Duo / Meet nor Skype, which means that as smart as Portal TV is, it is not as flexible as we would like.

Not everyone will be comfortable relying on a Facebook camera and microphone equipped product, but Portal TV is a powerful video calling device for televisions.

How to make a video call on Amazon Fire TV Cube

Amazon makes several great Fire TV streaming devices, but their $ 120 Fire TV Cube has one very cool feature that helps it stand out from the bundle of streaming devices:

You can buy a cheap USB webcam, connect it to the Cube, and use the device to make free two-way video calls with anyone with an Alexa-equipped smartphone, tablet, Echo Show, or Echo Spot.

You can use Alexa to start and end calls, as well as to tell it that you want to turn the camera on or off.

This solution doesn’t have Portal TV’s fancy smart tracking camera (unless you buy a USB webcam that has this feature) and is limited to calling people with Alexa devices, but if you already own a Fire TV Cube, or was Thinking of buying one, this is another benefit of owning one.

How to make a video call on Google Chromecast with Google TV

Google’s latest streaming media player, the $ 50 Chromecast with Google TV, is a great and affordable media machine, but it also has an unannounced (and not officially supported) feature.

You can buy a USB hub and use it to connect a USB webcam to the streaming device. From there, just load up the Google Duo app from the Google Play store and voila, you can now make TV-based video calls with any other Google Duo user. The only problem is that, at the moment, the Duo app seems to be restricted to outgoing calls only.

Because the Chromecast with Google TV runs Android TV, this little trick should work with any video calling app that you can find on the Play Store, and possibly apps that can be downloaded to the device, but don’t count on it, as I said, none of this is officially supported by Google.

How to make a video call on TiVo Stream 4K

The TiVo Stream 4K is essentially the same hardware as the Chromecast with Google TV, which means it should also work with a webcam if you buy a powered USB hub and Google Duo.

Stream 4K runs Android TV, and while it doesn’t have the Google TV interface, it does come with TiVo’s Stream app, which provides a very similar curated and personalized experience for finding streaming content to watch. It also has fantastic integration with Sling TV, making it an ideal accessory for Sling subscribers.

How to make a video call in Mecool Now

Speaking of Android TV and Google Duo, the $ 160 Mecool Now is like a hybrid of Facebook Portal TV and Chromecast with Google TV.

It perches on your TV (or you can mount it on a tripod), and its built-in webcam and microphone are all you need to make TV-based calls via Google Duo.

It’s also a full Android TV device, so you can use it to access a wide variety of streaming services like YouTube, but it’s not among the small number of Android TV devices Netflix has chosen to work with.

How to make a video call on Android TV or Samsung Smart TV

Several companies, including Sony, Hisense, and TCL, use Android TV as their smart TV software, which means that they should also work with Google Duo or any other video calling app that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. However, you will need a USB webcam for this to work, and that’s where things get a bit tricky.

In theory, almost any USB webcam should work. In practice, those who have tried this solution have had mixed results. Tips Clear contacted Sony, Hisense, and TCL to find out if these companies maintain lists of webcams that are guaranteed to work with their Android TV models. Sony says it doesn’t have that list and neither does TCL, but TCL says it has tested many of these devices and so far they have all worked well. Hisense did not respond when this post was published.

Google’s Duo team claims that the app is also available for Samsung’s Tizen operating system, which powers your smart TVs if you have a USB webcam.

How to make a video call on Xbox One, Series S, or Series X

This option is very Microsoft focused as it requires an Xbox game console (Xbox One / One S / One X / Series S / Series X), a USB webcam, and a Skype account.

Connecting a webcam and installing the Skype app from the Xbox store will allow you to make Skype video or voice calls on the big screen.

As far as we know, Xbox consoles are not compatible with any other video calling app.

How to make a video call using your phone as a wireless webcam

For years, Tellybean developed software that enables an Android phone to act as a wireless webcam for a video call on an Android TV or smart TV streaming media device.

And even though the company is no more, its software still works and you can download it from the Google Play Store for Android devices and Android TV.

Once installed, the software allows you to make free video calls to other Tellybean users. The best part of this solution is that for Android and Android TV owners, there is no need to buy new hardware. The bad part is that there is no guarantee that the software will continue to work in the future, and there is no way to use Tellybean with other calling platforms.

How to make a video call by mirroring your phone, tablet or PC to your TV

If you really want to see your callers on a big screen, mirroring your phone or tablet content to your TV is by far the most flexible option, even if it’s not as convenient as having a calling solution. all in one. on the television itself.

If you own an Apple device, AirPlay screen mirroring will allow you to project audio and video from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac to an AirPlay 2-enabled streaming device or smart TV. This used to be something you needed to do with an Apple TV, but these days Apple has licensed its AirPlay technology to a wide variety of manufacturers.

Smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio all support AirPlay, and Roku just announced the launch of its OS 10, bringing AirPlay 2 to a wide selection of its popular streaming media devices.

Alternatively, Google’s built-in Chromecast casting technology can do the same from an Android phone or tablet to an Android TV streaming media device or an Android TV-based smart TV.

You will continue to use the camera and microphone built into your phone or tablet, and there are a number of great accessories that allow you to mount these devices to mounts, tripods or clamps with flexible goosenecks.

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