The very first video walkie talkie for desktop.
Place Pixel - 2017
Alex Padalko - Frontend Dev
Matt Oconnor - Backend Dev
Scott Liang - UX, UI, PM, CEO
Roger is the very first push-to-video talk solution for your Mac (think: a video walkie talkie). Roger is based on a simple question: How close can you get to working side by side, without actually having to work side by side?
We had a few criteria when we first conceptualized Roger: We wanted to help a demographic that we were more familiar with, and we wanted to address something that was part of day-to-day work (most of your waking hours each day).
After interviewing a number of people in the co-working space, plus others in our extended networks, we eventually honed in on small, high-productivity teams (3 to 9 folks) and the issues they faced with remote communication.
We found a number of key insights:
Some examples of everyday chatter include "Where did you say the assets were again?" and "Hey, we have a call with Mike at 6." Spoken, it was instant and high-fidelity—but typed, it was slow and more prone to misunderstanding. It also filled up inboxes and #channels with cruft.
So we wanted to get as close to face-to-face communication as we could by moving everyday chatter to a place where it was better suited.
Skype was much higher fidelity than text (you can see and hear each other), but involved a lot of friction. Generally, setting up a Skype session required scheduling a call, dialing and ringing, answering, and engaging in a formal video call. This was too much for spontaneous use.
We endeavored for Roger to have the following qualities:
Every face-to-face talk is preceded by a brief wave or tap on the shoulder. Clicking on an emoji sends an instant "emote" to your colleague. We were thrilled to see how users adopted these emotes for their own purposes, such as getting attention and sending affirmatives / negatives.
My desktop is on the left. To communicate with Michelle, I simply hold down on her bubble and start talking. My video feed then instantly appears in the corner of her screen. (The hold feature is there to prevent unintended activations—once connected, I am free to let go.)
To reply, Michelle just clicks on my video. Notice her privacy is not affected unless she opts in.
One of the most common pain points our users reported was the the inability to engage a third person without ending the current call. Group calling with a push-to-video call interaction, however, had never been done before (at least, not to our knowledge). It was a great challenge to keep the interaction simple, consistent, and technically feasible.
We eventually decided on the ability to add one additional user (which accounted for the majority of use cases) by using the same push-to-talk feature originally implemented. In this case, I call Alex while still talking with Michelle. Michelle is then made aware that I am speaking to Alex, and can call him to complete the three-way connection.
Since it's intended to be always-present, Roger is designed as non-obtrusive menubar app. "Here" / "busy" states can be toggled rather than closing the app and the bubble can be hidden when not in use.
Roger's interaction paradigm has never been seen on desktop before. As a result, we needed to make the onboarding process as engaging and informative as possible.
Roger first gets your attention with a profound fusion between Drake and pugs. You're then taught the call process through an interactive tutorial (we are huge fans of this approach).
A natural problem with communication apps is the "dead zone" between first launch and adding your first contact. We sought to combat this by providing Roger himself as a first connection. He not only lets you practice the push-to-talk feature, but also gives you a random puppy gif each time you call him. That's right—instant, on-demand puppy gifs.
A few snippets of feedback from real users:
I expected a regular video chatting service. Expected to be able to call my friends, however when I saw that this worked more as a walkie talkie I was super excited as it is so different and fun ... I tend to click on the little emoji face on the pop-up bubble and send the hand emoji to my friend. My friend then realizes I am trying to talk to her so then she goes online and we start video talking. We can talk for hours and I can multi task at the same time as the chat doesn’t close and is a small rectangle in the corner. - Luisa
I would say it’s a different use case than your traditional video chat platforms. But the first time I used it, I was surprised by how it “just works”. I love products that are like this. - Lawrence
I am part of a small team of web developers (4 members). We’re not always in the same location (or country for that matter) so we use Roger as a method of increasing the speed of internal communications. Very simple, very effective app, working well for us at the moment. - Chris
As a student in Graphic Design I team up with a friend from me to design websites, he develops them. With Roger we quickly communicate without a hassle ... We used to call via Messenger or Skype but Roger is faster and we can quit calling after a few seconds. We just say what we need to say about the project. - Laurens
I have two very close friends who I went to college with. Now that we live all around the world, it’s hard to do quick face-to-face convos (FaceTime is such a ‘commitment’), but Roger allows us to quickly communicate on something and hang up without feeling committed to a long conversation. - Westin