Life-size Skype (or FaceTime) video chat using an HDTV, an iPad and Airplay Mirroring

One of the reasons I really wanted to upgrade to the new iPad was for ease of setting up video chats between my kids and my parents.  Whereas before we had to go through a lengthy laptop bootup and setup process, we can have a video conference running on the iPad in about 15 seconds.

What I hadn’t appreciated at the time is that the iPad’s versatility has really expanded what we can do over video conference.  Whereas before a video chat used to be a fairly static setup on the kitchen table or the living room, the iPad can go all kinds of places.  When my daughter and wife planted a flower pot out in the backyard, my daughter eagerly brought the iPad outside to show it to her grandparents over FaceTime.

While the iPad takes video chat more places, it does come with a tradeoff of a smaller screen.  Despite its crispness, it’s still a smaller surface area than even my 13″ laptop.  It makes for an intimate one-on-one chat, but when both my 2-year-old and 4-year-old are trying to chat at once with their grandparents, it’s a little tight.

Then it occurred to me that I could use the biggest screen in the house – the 46″ HDTV.  Since we have an Apple TV, I can mirror the iPad’s screen to the TV with just a few taps.  After starting a video chat with my father, I brought the kids into the den and initiated a mirror session.  Instantly, my father popped up on the big TV, in full life size.

Of course, my father needed to be able to see us and the kids as well, so I needed to place the iPad up by the TV.  In order to avoid creating a double-image, I flipped the iPad around and set it to use the “back” camera.  While it obscured a small part of the screen, it perfectly covered the “End Call” button in the bottom center.

My daughter thought the life-size camera was great.  It worked particularly well for when she wanted to show my father a toy or book.  On the iPad (or laptop), she is so close to the screen that what she is trying to show is often off camera, and she hasn’t gotten the hang of watching the box to make sure what she is showing is on screen.  However, since she was much further away from the TV, whatever she was holding was easy for my father to see.

My younger son wasn’t so taken with the experience.  He can be a little skittish, and the experience of suddenly seeing his grandfather in life size up on the TV was a little overwhelming for him at first.  Eventually he warmed up, but it took a while.

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