The great thing about Google Wave is how easy it is to extend with new capabilities. Just take a look at this brilliant VoiceChat gadget as an example.
Built as a collaboration between America’s Ibook and British start-up PhoneFromHere, this app slots right into Wave and allows you perform a conference call with others in a wave in real-time – but it’s more than that.
The smart bit is that the conversation is saved as a list of audio clips. At any point you can listen back to any part of the conversation and reply by clicking the ‘Speak Now’ button. This leads to a very ‘natural’ conversation even if different members of the wave are contributing at different times.
When I tried VoiceChat, Ibook’s Brian Reynolds was also in the Wave at the time and we had a phone-call style conversation. If you came into the Wave now, you could listen back and interject with your own thoughts at any point. Your recording would be added to the end of the list of clips but with an indicator showing which earlier clip it referred to.
While threaded replies (as with blips in Google Wave where replies branch out into visibly separate strands) would be a good idea for making sense of long conversations, this is early days for VoiceChat.
Looking to the future, the developers plan to build in automatic transcription of conversations so that they can be searched as text. In addition, they’re looking to support integration of landline and mobile phone calls so you could dial into a conversation without having to use Wave at all.
This truly is an inspirational use of Google Wave, showing that Wave is all about what the platform allows you to do, not the slightly underwhelming framework that Google presents you with when you first load Wave up. Remember that Wave was only announced six months ago – imagine what more will be possible as the platform matures.
You can read more about VoiceChat here. While you can’t install it in your own waves yet, you can try it out in a public wave here. If you’re a member of the Google Wave Developer Sandbox there is another public wave featuring VoiceChat here.