You may have already placed a video call from your computer or from your smartphone. In the future, you may make such calls from your television.
That's the vision of startup company Tely Labs. The Menlo Park, Calif., company offers a new device that allows consumers to make video calls through Skype on their TVs.
The device, dubbed telyHD, is no simple webcam. Instead, it's essentially a digital set-top box that happens to have a camera. It runs a version of the Android operating system, is built around a dual-core processor, connects directly to the Internet and allows you to plug in both SD cards and USB drives.
But the core feature is the ability to make video calls. Other companies, including some television manufacturers, offer gadgets that also make video calls. But telyHD is one of the first systems available that can be used with most HD televisions - not just with a specific brand of them or just with smart TVs - and that connects to a mainstream video calling service such as Skype.
TelyHD is easy to set up. It comes with a grip that allows you to attach it to the top of your television. Once you have it in place and plugged in, you can connect it to your router either with an Ethernet cable or via Wi-Fi. After that, you simply log into your Skype account.
Once logged in, you'll see the telyHD's "home screen," which consists of a virtual "carousel" of contact cards composed of your Skype buddies. Using the remote, you can flip between the cards, which tell you whether your buddies are online and whether they, too, are using a telyHD. Although you can make video calls to friends who are using phones or computers, calls that are made to other telyHD devices are streamed in the highest resolution.
It's fairly easy to make a call. You just highlight your friend's card and press a button on the device's remote. If the friend picks up, telyHD splits your TV screen so that you see your friend on one side, and yourself on the other.
I've placed several video calls through telyHD, and it worked fairly well. The audio was smooth, and the video was pretty good on telyHD-to-telyHD calls.
Right now, though, telyHD costs too much and does too little.
For example, while it connects to Skype, it won't let you connect to any other video calling service. You can't make calls using Tango, Apple's FaceTime or Google Talk. And even its Skype connection has limitations.
And at $249, the telyHD is more than twice the price of the Apple TV or a Roku box, devices that offer far more entertainment features, if not actual video calling.
Unfortunately, if you really want to make video calls on your TV and don't yet have a smart TV, the telyHD is one of your few alternatives. Here's hoping Tely Labs continues to improve it and that we see other options soon.