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11 Dec

Gaming changing tool: UStream iPhone App

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With all the new technology that continues to come out, it actually is hard for me to get impressed by something. I can think of only a handful of times that my jaw dropped.

This may be one of those times.

For more than a year now, I and some seattletimes.com colleagues had been experimenting with livestream. It’s been a virtual arms race to see who would own and lead that technology. From Justin.tv to livestream.com (formerly Mogulus) to Kyte.tv to UStream.tv, each had very cool features and some significant weaknesses. (When I get a chance, I’ll post my experiences with each and a review of them.)

These free live streaming apps allowed journalists to do live video from just about anywhere, taking on TV’s ownership of live shots. All you needed was a camera, laptop and a strong, reliable Internet connection.

At ST.com we tried a variety of experiments, some more successful than others… but we tried. We knew it was just a matter of time before the technology would catch up to our ideas. While not perfect yet, technology has been making some significant strides… and yesterday was a big step.

In addition to live streaming from your laptop, there was an even smaller arms race from a few folks wanting to stream from your cell phone.

Qik was one of the first… but you had to have a special phone. When the iPhone came out, Qik would only work if you had a jail-broken iPhone. Then they finally had an approved app, but live streaming was not a feature.

Skype would work on one-to-one calls, but only on WiFi, not 3G.

No one had cracked the nut to offer streaming from your phone, broadcasting live to the world. Well, no one, until UStream’s new iPhone that was released earlier this week.

Let me just say it: This is a journalism game changer. Professional, citizen, whatever! You can now cover breaking news from your phone to your homepage to the world. Awesome!

I downloaded the free app and took it for a test drive. As with all technology, there are some strengths, there are some weaknesses… but, for the most part, it worked!

Here are some videos I did the morning the app was released:

STRENGTHS: WEAKNESSES:
> It works on both 3G and WiFi. > UM, you’re depending on the AT&T network. Enough said.
> UStream’s video-related chatrooms is displayed on your iPhone screen. > The quality of the content coming from those chatters is still, well, low.
> It gets published and promoted on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and your channel. > When you are testing it out, you may swamp your friends with repeat “Check out this video” as you practice.
> You can offer polls during your stream. > I don’t know if you can craft the question, especially when live streaming.
> Visual quality is as good as the iPhone’s camera. > Visual quality is as good as the iPhone’s camera. I have shaky hands, which means you see shaky video.
> The audio quality is decent for what it is. I used the mic/ear buds, but found that actually hurt the quality. > No real external mic jack — because it’s a PHONE, not a camera!
> It’s free! > People see a lower third ad when viewing your video. But it’s freakin’ free to use!

Overall, if you have an iPhone, you HAVE TO GET THIS APP! (That’s right, all in caps.) Get the UStream app and get to work!

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