A quick look at SightSpeed

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SightSpeed is a peer-to-peer video conferencing service. It enables you to hold one-to-one video and voice calls using a desktop app which you can download for free. The cool thing about it is that, unlike other video conferencing apps I’ve tried, it produces full 30 frame per second video, without voice lag. So your lips move at the same time as the sound – that syncing is hard to do and the full video makes the experience much more akin to high-end hardware-based videoconference systems.

But the great thing for me about SightSpeed is that it can easily handle Mac to PC videoconferencing. Anyone who has tried this using AIM will have probably resorted to having a landline phone call to carry the voice while AIM transmits the video. It just can’t handle both smoothly.

According to Scott Lomond, president and COO of SightSpeed, one of the reasons it can do this is that their software filters out a lot of unnecessary video information. Sure it’s got great compression codecs, but it actually filters out extraneous information which the human eye doesn’t need. You can’t see the whole screen, so it just sends the information which is changing and which you are likely to focus on. Of course, as a user, this is all behind the scenes, but what it means is that SightSpeed can transmit many more frames using the same amount of bandwidth. Hence there’s 30fps.

From my testing it to a PC running Windows 2000 in the UK from my Mac running OSX 10.4 in the US, the video was really clear and smooth. I had a few voice dropouts but I suspect that’s because we hadn’t selected the correct bandwidth speeds and because I was on a wireless connection. With a bit of tweaking (and there’s a full wizard for this so it’s not hard), and a wired connection (or a faster wireless one) that would be easily solved.

The basic service is free, and then you can upgrade to have multi-party videoconferences, and to record ‘voice mails’ for people.There’s also a Video Answering Service so callers can leave you a video if you’re not around.

Peter Csathy has recently joined as CEO, having formerly been COO and president of MusicMatch. He has some interesting plans for the company which take advantage of its skills with video capture and transmission. He’s already helped to sell MusicMatch to Yahoo! so knows how to develop companies which are attractive targets. In the meantime, the company is focused on taking advantage of its video compression and conferencing technologies.

One to watch – quite literally.

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