So, by now you will all have heard yesterday’s news that lock down has been extended for at least another 3 weeks. Many of you will now be well and truly missing your friends, family and even work colleagues!

Whilst there is always the telephone, it doesn’t really make up for that face to face contact that we are all so used to having on a daily basis. Especially when, for at least the last 3 weeks the likelihood is that many of you will only have had face to face contact with the people in your own house.

So how can we stay connected with those we care about whilst still obeying the social distancing rules?

Well there are many ways but here are a few examples…..

There are hardware solutions or integrated devices available such as the ones made by Amazon, Google and Facebook. Many of you will be familiar with the standard assistant devices such as the Echo, Echo Dot and Google Home. However, they also produce all in one devices allowing you to video call between devices. They are relatively easy to set up and use as well as generally being cheaper than buying a smart device such as a phone or tablet with a built-in camera. They do require a good WiFi connection and plug into an electrical socket so are not as portable as a phone or tablet. The Amazon Echo Show, Google Home Hub and Facebook Portal all have built in screens and cameras allowing you to see each other as well as chat. An added bonus is that as well as being able to use them for video calls you can also stream TV and films on them.

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Using video calling apps on your existing smart phone or tablet…..

Facetime – Probably most of you are familiar with or at least heard of this. It works on iOS devices, so iPad or iPhone. You can group chat with up to 32 people at the same time as long as they all have an iOS device.

WhatsApp– works on both Android and iOS devices and is relatively easy to use just selecting the contact and tapping the video call button. You can video chat with up to 4 app users at the same time.

Skype – Works across most platforms (Android, iOS and windows-based devices including PC’s) and is probably one of the most common forms of video chat. You can video chat through the app with up to 50 people all at the same time.

Google Duo – Is a video chat app for android devices where you can log in and verify your number to make video calls to other users of the app. You can group video chat with up to 8 people.

Viber – Is another cross-platform video calling app, compatible with most operating systems. You can group chat through the app with up to 5 people.

Facebook Messenger – is compatible with android and iOS devices as well as any web browser logged into a Facebook account. You can group video chat through the app with up to 50 people. However, with a group of 50 people you will only see the person talking on the screen and for groups of 6 people or less you will see everyone at once.

Google hangouts – Is compatible with iOS and Android devices and requires a Gmail or Google account. You can group video chat through the app with up to 10 people at the same time.

Keeping in touch with colleagues and completing school work…..

Microsoft Teams – Is a chat-based communication platform. It is available for desktops, Android, iOS and Windows Phone. It will integrate with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote as well as allowing remote meetings.

Zoom – Is a video conferencing tool. It has different plans available. The free plan will allow a 40 minute conference call.

Google Classroom – Is a free web service developed by Google to share files between students and teachers.

There are of course many more ways to stay connected, these are just a few examples. Next time I’ll give you some activity ideas that you can use to stay in touch with your friends, family and colleagues through group video chats.

Access: technology is an assistive technology consultancy service specialising in supporting clients with brain injuries within the medico-legal sector.

Please do contact us on if you wish to know any more about how to use the devices and apps listed above.