Supporting social interactions for video calls in the home

A couple sitting and chatting to a woman via video call over a laptop.

Project overview

Living apart from family and friends either temporarily or permanently due to work, study or other commitments is common in today’s society. To cope with this, people use different methods, including video calls, to maintain their connections with others. Although video call technologies such as Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts are widely used on personal devices, studies show that they are still far from supporting the flexibility that video callers need and want.

Recent studies have shown that video callers frequently perform activities in parallel to their video call conversations, and more importantly, they share their activities and episodes of their everyday life through video calls. For example, video callers have been found to walk around the house and do light house chores and even cook while on a video call, or remotely attend a birthday party via a video call. However, video call technologies are not specifically designed to support such activities and experiences. Managing these activities therefore raises challenges for video callers regarding mobility, having to hold the device, managing the video frame, optimising the audio, etc, which can make interactions cumbersome.

This project investigates how the design of video call technologies can mitigate these problems and support the flexibility required for video callers to seamlessly engage in other activities while on a video call.

The research team is undertaking studies on the use of video call technologies by observing how friends and families use the technology at home in their natural settings. We are studying state of the art technologies, such as Skype on Xbox One, as well as the typical video call technologies people use on personal devices, such as Skype and Hangouts.

This research will contribute knowledge to the field of video-mediated communication by understanding video callers’ needs and providing design guidelines for supporting them.

Project team

  • Behnaz Rostami Yeganeh, PhD Candidate, Microsoft Research Centre for SocialNUI, The University of Melbourne
  • Frank Vetere
    Frank Vetere, Professor, The University of Melbourne
  • Kenton O’Hara, Research Scientist, Microsoft Research, Cambridge, UK & Principal Fellow, The University of Melbourne

Contact details


Rintel, S., O’Hara, K., Yeganeh, B. R. & Rädle, R. (2015) Ad hoc adaptability in video-calling. In ITS 2015 Workshop on Interacting with Multi-Device Ecologies in the Wild. Madeira, Portugal. [PDF]

Fisk, L., Carter, M., Yeganeh, B. R., Vetere, F., & Ploderer, B. (2014) Implicit and explicit interactions in video mediated collaboration, In Proceedings of the Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference (OzCHI 2014). New York: ACM Press, pp. 250–259 [PDF, DOI]