Inspiration

We all have used video calling software these past few months, but they are better for presentations than social functions. Our project emulates the flow of real life social situations, allowing you to move from conversation to conversation as needed.

What it does

Shape Our Space is a peer-to-peer video call web application for all sorts of social events from birthday parties to career fairs. You control a token that can move around in a 2D virtual space. You can video chat with other people nearby you. However, if you want to move to a different conversation, you can easily move your token away from this group and join another group's conversation in a different area. And if you want to come back, you can easily walk back to a previous group!

You can also set up "Speaker" sections where you can broadcast your video/audio during a presentation but you will be distracted by the audience's video/audio. These spaces can be thought of as hills, the higher you are the more people you can speak towards. Just like speaking on a hill, while you can broadcast yourself outwards it is difficult to hear those below you. Since these spaces can overlap, it is possible to create speaker sections and private rooms inside of a single lobby.

How I built it

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript built the front end. We used Flask for the back end, JavaScript and webRTC (peer.js) for the peer-to-peer communication, and EaselJS for the graphics. We setup Python workflows set up on GitHub. We also setup the continuous integration & notifications via Slack. Finally, we deployed our project with Heroku.

Challenges I ran into

Properly engaging and disengaging the video calls was challenging due to browser incompatibilities. Being able to dynamically create video calls slowed us down since the public server for peerjs broke while we were using it. It was extremely hard to debug since in the end it wasn't our fault. We fixed this by hosting PeerJS ourselves on a separate server. We had difficulty deploying on google cloud via github actions workflow. Design was difficult since we had to create a responsive application that works well and looks good on multiple screen sizes.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

Setting up a video call platform with a dynamic number of people in a given video call at a time is a very cool thing to interact with, and we are proud that we were able to set that up!

What I learned

Webrtc, PeerJS, Flask, Heroku deployment, EaselJS, Google Cloud Platform

What's next for Shape Our Space

As far as the general feel of Shape Our Space goes, we would like to add more visual customization, allow for some users to be moderators, create dynamic circle size, and create a more visually pleasing look and feel.

As far as the mechanics of Shape Our Space are concerned, we would have really liked to add widgets to the platform. Our original vision for the app had each circle space with configurable features such as presentation mode, whiteboard mode, queue mode, and more which would allow for custom types of video calls and interactions. We also wanted to be able to embed external apps into the app to help users communicate.

We believe these changes would make Shape Our Space a platform that we ourselves would use for video communication. Being able to integrate video call with a real virtual space with custom interactions between users would make Shape Our Space a real competitor in the video streaming market.

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