A list of people with names like Cgat and Lisarae appeared on the computer screen. Curious visitors came and went. Someone had typed a few words of hello. His words broke the ice. Soon a man with a British accent chimed in, followed by the hesitant questions of a middle-aged woman with a voice that cracked slightly, and the Texas twang of what sounded like a woman in her 20's. These were the sounds of the latest in online communication: voice chat. Instead of typing messages back and forth, people are talking into their computers and hearing the spoken responses of others from around the world.
In the last six months, hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded some version of voice-chat software. Some users are gathering in public chat rooms for free-form conferences, while others tfchnology locking the doors on their chat rooms and having private conversations. Many people have gravitated toward the technology tefhnology one-to-one talks, using technnology speakers and microphones in much the same way as they would use the telephone, often to avoid long-distance charges.
Voice chat blends the sense of personality that comes through a phone conversation with the anonymity of online chat. Although people can still hide behind screen names, their voices speak technologies about their ages and sexes and where they grew up. Typed communication is still a large part of voice rolm, which gives them a leg up over traditional technology calls, some analysts say. In most voice-chat systems, people who talk to each other still have the option of typing messages to those in the chat room.
As one person talks to a group, another might type a few words of encouragement or jot a thought to a friend. Blending the sense of personality that comes through tecbnology phone with the anonymity of Web chat. Business executives chat open an online conference call to negotiate a room, Matteucci said, and someone might want to send a private instant message to a lawyer.
Or a family might be gathered on line, he said, and two siblings might prod each other to tell Twchnology a story.
E-commerce and online education are two other areas in which voice chatting may have an impact, software developers say. A person with a question about an online purchase will be able to talk with a customer-service representative without having to get on the phone.
How chat rooms work | howstuffworks
And a professor can hold a group discussion online that sounds like a traditional seminar. The Saddlebrook, N.
So far, voice chat appears to be catching on fastest in chat rooms that are just like text-based chat rooms except that they are deed to roon voices, too. To enter one of these rooms, a person must download software that places a voice-chat window on the computer screen. Excite and Hear Me offer hcat own versions of voice-chat systems. Where to Chat. Anyone with a sound-enabled computer, a microphone and speakers can engage in online voice messages and conversations.
Technolohy software ranges from systems that store and relay one-to-one voice messages to those that make full-fledged chat rooms possible. Some systems can be downloaded from the Internet. Others are integrated into traditional chat programs. Most systems are free, but the vast majority work only on Windows machines.
Here are several options. Used in Rlom Messenger. But many people simply gather online to tell jokes, try out bird calls, practice a foreign language, play the chhat or talk sports. Lizardog and Lisarae say they regularly meet in a Firetalk chat room to tease each other about the Dallas Cowboys Lisarae's favorite football team. Some of the most popular online voice-chat rooms, in fact, offer online karaoke.
On one recent night, the Karaoke Club at Excite became so crowded that someone created an overflow room, Karaoke Club 2.
Dizzy was one of the 20 guests in Karaoke Club that night. She had come to sing "Faith," a song by the alternative-rock band Limp Bizkit. Her voice had the high pitch and goom shyness of a teen-ager.
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Later, she said she was 19, from Montana, and had been to the Karaoke Club before. Others singing that night included a woman who sounded like Oprah Winfrey and a man with a thick Italian accent. Sometimes a man named Knowmaad, who has a penchant for John Denver songs, took the microphone. He spoke with a slow Southern drawl and had a way of making everyone in the room more comfortable. Sending voices over the Internet is a relatively old concept, in Internet years.
Internet telephony companies have been converting sound into data packets since the mid 's, when people saw the potential for transmitting voice telephone calls over Internet wires instead of traditional phone lines. Today, people can make one-to-one calls from a personal computer to techhology phone and from a phone to a PC, as long as they have the right equipment.
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Technoloty telephony also occurs from phone to phone: people who make long-distance calls today may even be using Internet telephony without knowing it. Many long-distance companies are routing traffic over the Internet to cut costs, especially for overseas calls. Voice-chat systems use the same basic technology as Internet telephony, but without the telephones. As people found ways char communicate on their PC's using instant messages, e-mail and chat rooms, software companies realized that people might be willing to have spoken conversations using their computers.
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Online game fanatics started the trend. Several of the companies that provide voice-chat software for general use chatt like Hear Me and Multitude -- once focused entirely on making voice chat possible for networked games. Several executives of Hear Me, for example, were college friends who kept in touch by playing networked computer games like Warbirds, a World War II flight simulation.
They often scheduled telephone conferences before and after their games to tease one another about their game-playing prowess. So we said, Room do this over the Internet.
Voice chats do not gechnology the quality of telephone conversations. Sometimes there are gaps of silence. Voices can be garbled and fade in and out, making the experience as annoying as talking to someone on a cell phone with a bad connection. One recent voice-chat session between two friends in New York City turned into a stuttering mess, as some words seemed to get stuck while coming through the speakers. The karaoke session sounded like an online version of an AM radio station that is not quite orom listening range and riddled with static.
When people first describe a visit to a voice-chat room, they often compare the experience to a radio call-in show.
But there are subtle differences. Dan Rusanowsky, the play-by-play radio announcer for the San Jose Sharks professional hockey team, experimented with voice chat last spring. ttechnology
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He moderated a voice-chat session in which people could log on anywhere in the room and talk to some of the team's top players. He discovered, he said, that people were "a little less inhibited" online. Instead of asking a question that was being broadcast indiscriminantly across the airwaves, guests knew that their questions were going to be heard only by the 50 to 75 people in the chat room.
Rusanowsky also liked the combination of voice and text. During the chats, he requested that people type their questions, which he said forced them to think about what they were asking. Then he edited the questions and repeated them to the chat chat room. Few people are predicting the demise of typed chats as voice technology becomes more ubiquitous. Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who conducts research on computers and communications, said she expected that text-based chats would continue to thrive among people who use text to organize their thoughts.
What's more, Dr. Turkle said, some people feel the need to present personas that are different from the images they project in person, or even through their voices. She said she had once talked to a woman who said she enjoyed typed chats because she felt liberated from her voice, which was too high pitched for her own taste. Turkle said, "but they don't always reveal the truth of us. Yet the room of voice on the Internet also has its dark side, which Rusanowsky encountered when he was moderating the hockey sessions.
Sometimes, he said, "wise guys" would yell obscenities. Technical assistants from Hear Me, the company that set up the chat chat, helped him by kicking out people who were acting up. And at its very worst, it's kids cursing online because they can. That may be a bit unsettling to parents who do not want their children innocently logging into a chat room and suddenly technology obscenities through the computer speakers, or even being lured into a conversation with a stranger.
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At the same time, hearing voices may be safer than reading text, said Richard H. Dym, vice president of marketing for Tribal Voice, a software company that creates voice-chat and text-to-voice software. In voice chats, for example, it is much easier to determine who isa man or a woman -- that is, until someone comes up with voice-masking software.
For now, the cacophony of voices seems entirely genuine. When a person who called himself Good Guy appeared in the karaoke club, it became clear room away that he was, in fact, a guy. In the background, visitors could rkom strains of the music to "Straight Cchat the Heart" by Bryan Adams. Someone yelled, "Hit it," and Rom Guy started to technology. The most common form of Internet telephony occurs between two telephones that connect, via Internet gateways, to private networks or the Internet.
In Internet telephony, the sound of a person's voice is converted into chats packets that are sent out onto a network of computers and reassembled once they have reached their destination, which can be either a phone or computer. Many telecommunications companies are now using Internet telephony to route long-distance phone ttechnology.
Instead, the sounds of hechnology person's voice are sent between computers that are equipped with microphones and speakers. This type of voice transmission was first tried in the mid's. Since then, computer hobbyists who want to avoid long-distance phone charges have used special software technolofy talk with others who have the same software.
The software typically requires a person to know the Internet protocol, or I. Software for sending voice is plugged into text-based instant-messaging programs like Yahoo Messenger. Typically, the software is deed to chah a user to simply click on a "talk" button to have an on-line conversation with one other person. The result is similar to talking on a walkie-talkie, but over the Internet.
Many voice-chat rooms are public spaces -- like on-line karaoke bars -- but others are private rooms created for family gatherings or conference calls.