Rounds Live, a new social media service, is the latest venture that seeks to enable viewers to gab along with TV shows, or, as the company describes it, “turn any web site into a live video chat party”—complete with participants’ own webcam videos dotted around the screen. Rounds Live’s software creates “video bubbles” on any web page, in essence a transparent layer that sits independently on top of the content, regardless of whether the content is static, live or on demand.
The company, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, developed the Live function as an offshoot of its original social platform, Rounds Mobile, which lets groups of people watch videos, play games and share photos while video chatting across networks, operating systems and devices. The system can be used with streaming video content, but not with linear broadcast or cable programs.
Rounds is now negotiating with U.S. content suppliers to establish program alliances for marketing campaigns. The company’s first TV alliance was with the Israeli version of The X Factor, where users spent more time engaged with a show when video chatting. Viewers who were online with real “friends” spent 53 minutes per show with an average of five other people during the program. Those who joined a group of anonymous fans spent 35 minutes with an average of six and a half other people in the virtual rooms that are set up for such viewing sessions.
Rounds’ patent-pending technology can handle up to 12 simultaneous viewers in a virtual room connected to a single show and “millions of viewers” overall. The company is currently on servers at three vendors: Amazon Web Services, Digital Ocean and Rackspace. All of them have hosting facilities on the East and West Coasts of the United States as well as in Europe. The company also leverages scalable video coding (SVC) compression technology from Vidyo Inc. to combine shared entertainment with multi-party high-definition video conferencing and mass scaling capabilities.
Initially, Rounds Live will launch as a Chrome browser extension; Rounds’ current mobile app is available for iOS and Android devices. By summer, the company plans to add multiuser capabilities for its mobile apps and then connect mobile and web solutions. Support for additional browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari is in the works.