Gift of the Gab – HP launches Gabble, enabling private video conversations between groups of friends



April, 2009 -- An experimental HP service that allows people to time-shift their face-to-face conversations is now open for public use.

Originally developed by researchers at HP Labs, Gabble (www.hp.com/gabble) has been launched as a beta product by HP's Personal Systems Group (PSG), and specifically by PSG's Innovation Program Office led by Phil McKinney (PSG CTO). The service makes it simple to create private video conversations between friends, family members or colleagues working together in a team.

Gabble works with any computer or mobile device that can access the internet. To start a Gabble conversation, you just log on to the Gabble Web site to record a video using your webcam or by emailing or MMS-ing it from your mobile phone and posting it to your conversation. Only the people in the group can see your posts and respond with their own videos in return.

That inbuilt privacy is crucial, says HP Labs researcher April Slayden Mitchell. “Unlike a lot of other Web video services,” she says, “we’re private by default. And we allow you to have different groups of friends instead of just one.”

HP Labs researchers April Slayden Mitchell and Alex Vorbau.

HP Labs researchers April Slayden Mitchell and
Alex Vorbau.


Other popular video services, notes Mitchell, require you to change the permissions for each video you upload. Gabble’s conversational framework, in contrast, means that the videos you create are automatically viewable only to people already invited into a particular conversation.

“This isn’t about sharing videos with thousands of people or storing them forever,” notes Alex Vorbau, a principal creator of Gabble along with Mitchell and fellow HP Labs researcher Mitchell Trott. “This is a place to really communicate with the important people in your life whom you don’t get to see and with whom you’re trying to connect,” he says. “It’s especially good for groups of people who live in different time zones and who share an interest that is visual in nature.”

Gabble was built using both off-the-shelf technologies and state-of-the-art video streaming technology created by HP Labs. Mitchell, Vorbau and Trott are members of the HP Multimedia Communications and Networking Lab, many of whom helped in putting Gabble together.

HP’s research interest in Gabble is to help predict future trends in video communications. In launching a public beta of the service, the Gabble team is hoping to offer people something both useful and fun, but also to receive feedback on how such services can be improved.

Although it’s only recently gone public, Gabble has already received mentions in the New York Times and a number of technology blogs. “In the last week,” notes Vorbau, “we’ve had a lot of people sign up.” Indeed, he says, “we’ve tripled the number of users.”

Please note: the URL www.gabble.com is not owned by Hewlett-Packard and has no affiliation with the Gabble beta web service. For more information on Gabble, visit www.hp.com/gabble