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Novel App Makes Events Better Using WebRTC

As my industry colleague and co-moderator, Irwin Lazar of Nemertes Research, were searching for unique and noteworthy applications to share as part of our Enterprise Connect 2017 session titled "WebRTC Stories From the Field: Innovative Applications," we ran across Tap To Speak, a company that is addressing the feedback and participation challenges organizers, speakers, and attendees experience during live events... and it is doing so using WebRTC!

Any of us who have attended large events know just how difficult incorporating audience feedback and participation into sessions can be due to limitations in the number and placement of room microphones. Furthermore, finding a cost-effective way to gather data and a convenient way for attendees to provide their responses to a survey or polling questions for audience feedback can be logistically challenging.

This start-up has created a system that allows event participants to use their smartphones or Web browsers as WebRTC endpoints. For example, during a question and answer session, audience participants can use their smartphones as microphones to ask questions or to interact directly with the speaker via text messaging. Should the presenter post polling questions or a short survey during the presentation, attendees can respond via their smartphones.

At first blush, this app is very compelling to event organizers or speakers who want instant audience participation, feedback, and interaction.

Tap To Speak is a cloud-based subscription service, available for purchase on an as-needed basis for $297, which provides 30 days of full service. This pricing allows for an unlimited number of events during the subscription period as well as a single "ongoing event" during that time. Other plans are also available. The subscription enables audio and text communication, polling, surveys, and sponsor logos or ads. For those organizers that have Twilio numbers, an integration lets participants request and receive login details via text message.

Here's how Tap To Speak works:

1. A subscriber logs into his or her Tap To Speak account and selects a name and date to create a new event. If Wi-Fi is going to be available, the event creator can also note the SSID of the access point and any username and password details. When an event is created, the Tap To Speak system automatically generates a unique URL for the event. Event participants will input this URL in the Tap To Speak smartphone app to interact with the speaker/moderator/event organizer.

Figure 1: Adding an event in Tap To Speak is easy and straightforward.

2. At event time, the event moderator launches the event from the Tap To Speak interface and two screens are created: one for attendees and the other for the event moderator. For attendees, a public screen can be projected to the event's display; this screen is also posted to anyone's screen who is using the Tap To Speak mobile app or within a browser for connecting to the Tap To Speak-enabled event. This display will show the Tap To Speak URL for the event, the event Wi-Fi connection information, and the name of the person who is speaking using the app (attendees can be anonymous if they choose). Attendees who wish to interact with the speaker can add a photo, if desired, so that the speaker/moderator and the audience can see who is speaking.

Figure 2: This is the public screen attendees at a Tap To Speak event see. The person speaking in this instance is coming in over WebRTC.

3. The speaker/event moderator screen provides a view of who is next in line to speak, what text questions have been asked, and other event controls.

Figure 3: the Tap To Speak moderator interface

The presenter/event moderator can add survey or polling questions either in advance or on the fly, and push a summary of the responses for display to the audience on the public screen. This moderator screen supports hand gestures so that the speaker can control the event using his/her hands. Hand gesture commands include opening the microphones so that attendees can use the voice capability in their Tap To Speak apps, pausing the microphones, and removing the current attendee using the app to speak and activating the person who is next in line. Hand gestures are enabled using WebRTC and the camera in the presenter's laptop. The Tap To Speak backend detects camera motion as follows: Hand motion from bottom to top turns on the ability for attendees to ask questions; the reverse hand motion mutes the ability to ask questions. Hand motion from left to right moves the next speaker in the queue to active speaker.

I find it novel and useful how Tap To Speak enables a smartphone or browser to become the event microphone, allowing anyone to participate without having to walk to a microphone or waiting for a mic to be brought to them. Furthermore, Tap To Speak does not require attendees to be at the live event to participate. Many events are streamed or webcast to remote attendees. These remote attendees have the same capabilities as those attending in person -- all they need to do is enter the same event URL into the smartphone mobile app or their computer browser.

A Tap To Speak app download is not required on Android devices because the Chrome browser on Android supports WebRTC natively. iOS users will need to download the Tap To Speak app in order to use this solution. This iOS app has a built-in WebRTC stack that enables peer-to-peer voice communications.

Tap To Speak uses Temasys' WebRTC platform under the covers. Temasys provides the WebRTC stack in the mobile device apps as well as WebRTC capability in browsers that are not natively WebRTC-enabled.

Does this application interest you? Attend our "WebRTC Stories From the Field" session to learn more. We will try to use/demo Tap To Speak as one of the three applications we share! See you there!

Learn more about communications APIs at Enterprise Connect 2017, March 27 to 30, in Orlando, Fla. View the Communications APIs track, and register now using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event pass or get a free Expo Plus pass.