An earlier generation of VoIP.
October 7, 2005 8:38 AM   Subscribe

An early VoIP casualty. Think VoIP is a new phenomenon, and talking to people with Skype or Free World Dialup is incredible? Ten years ago, Onlive! put the Onlive! Traveler -- a collaborative VoIP product that's amazing even today -- into beta. With Traveler, a Windows95 (!) PC, a decent graphics card, a SoundBlaster and a dial-up Internet connection, you could not only chat with a friend, but participate in collaborative chats with the avatars of multiple friends in various 3-D rendered worlds. The avatars' lips even moved with your voice (.mpg movie). You could talk worldwide, for free. But even though Onlive! was around well before the boom, they were an unfortunate dot-com casualty, as Traveler never quite took off. Perhaps Traveler was doomed by the limited connectivity available in the mid 90's, or perhaps it was doomed by its occasionally creepy, fantastic 3-D designs -- but due to a number of collaborators, the Traveler still lives on today on a series of servers, and the (free) software still works on modern Windows PCs.
posted by eschatfische (13 comments total)
I remember being in college, setting up my roomate's computer with a Netscape 3 beta that included CoolTalk, and using that to talk to his brother back home in Oklahoma (who also installed Netscape 3), to save long distance phone charges. This was 1996 or so, and I always wondered why more people didn't do things like that.
posted by mathowie at 8:44 AM on October 7, 2005

Anyone remember Dialpad?

The 3-d avatar thing is a bit silly, IMO. Althrough a friend of mine works for a startup that does 3-d IM. I suppose that could evolve into something similar.
posted by delmoi at 9:05 AM on October 7, 2005

I used Dialpad in college but the connection was always too tenuous to be worth the long distance savings.
posted by sciurus at 9:15 AM on October 7, 2005

Mr Cat really needs to move out of the area because they're taping something.
posted by drezdn at 9:15 AM on October 7, 2005

Mr. Cat is comedy gold, I tellya.

Looks like I screwed up the Online! Traveler link with a nested HREF -- it was the same as the main link.
posted by eschatfische at 9:21 AM on October 7, 2005

various 3-D rendered worlds. The avatars' lips even moved with your voice

My god, I'd love to live in there. At least one or two days out of the month or so.
posted by Peter H at 9:35 AM on October 7, 2005

Because avatars make body contact (you can hear and feel someone bumping you), avatar sports such as sumo wrestling, football and basketball have been created.

posted by nobody at 9:41 AM on October 7, 2005

Wow - I am continually amazed by the fantastic flights of imagination that are inspired by computers. From Tron to Neuromancer and stuff like this, it really seems that many people felt that computers offered a whole new plane of being where anything you could imagine could take shape. I guess I've just never been that ambitious in my expectations of computers.
posted by scarabic at 9:43 AM on October 7, 2005

mathowie: I can tell you why. It's because the reality a couple of years later was infinitely more complex. My high school friends and I struggled for about a month trying to set up some sort of voice chat software so we could chat from different universities without racking up the bills; alas, all we ever got was silence and "unable to connect" errors, thanks to a combo of unreliable software firewalls and university restrictions. Perhaps things have gotten easier, but I'm pretty techy and I still think it's way easier to just pick up a phone and swallow the cost. I haven't tried Skype or the like yet, though.
posted by chrominance at 10:53 AM on October 7, 2005

We were on a high speed internet pilot while I was in college in 1996 and I remember trying CoolTalk and I believe some product from Microsoft -- Comic Chat? Nothing was ever reliable enough to use for anything serious... It was as much a "oh, interesting toy" as PointCast and those "push" services were shortly after that time.
posted by VulcanMike at 11:39 AM on October 7, 2005

chrominance writes "I haven't tried Skype or the like yet, though."

Skype is dead easy. If you've got high speed internet able to surf the web you should be fine.
posted by Mitheral at 12:47 PM on October 7, 2005

I am all for advances in user interface and accessibility, but ... I don't want to be a floating ten-polygon head.
Nothing like this will really take off until we have better input devices and displays, I think.
posted by blacklite at 5:58 PM on October 7, 2005

Man, I remember this program. A friend of mine and I did this a few times when it came out. How COOL was that then? I was just thinking of this recently and wondering what happened to it.
posted by Eekacat at 6:14 PM on October 7, 2005

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