Virtual Airwaves Blog
July 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Categories


Virtual Airwaves Beta User’s Guide

chatterbeakchatterbeak

About Virtual Airwaves

Virtual Airwaves provides the experience of 2-way radio (Walkie-Talkies, GMRS, CB) by enabling you to talk with people near you. With just a single button push, you can instantly talk to people in your neighborhood, on the highway around you, within your campus, or as you travel.

00_intro_flat

Virtual Airwaves is live communication: it is not instant messaging with audio, it is not sending recorded audio clips. Just like real radio, you hear people while they are talking, and you can hear multiple people talking over each other. And just like normal radio, there is no need to login, and no need to expose your contact info or social network identity. You already know how to use it – just select a channel, and push the button to talk. That’s it.

You can also easily create your own channels, thus creating push-to-talk groups of friends, family, work associates, or travel partners without needing to tie everyone together with a burdensome and intrusive social network. It is so simple and lightweight to create and use such channels, that Virtual Airwaves is ideal for both permanent and temporary groups.

Using Virtual Airwaves

It’s innovatively simple to use. There is no registration, and no account to set up – just like a real radio device. Your phone is your handset. Just launch the Virtual Airwaves App, and if you have a network connection, it will connect to the service automatically.

Either cellular or WiFi networks are acceptable for Virtual Airwaves. If your network service is interrupted, the app will sense the disconnection, and will reconnect automatically as soon as access is restored.

When you are “in” a channel, you are “on the air.” You will hear anyone in the appropriate vicinity who talks, The only button you need is the single big blue Talk button: just press it and talk. Like real radio, your voice is sent instantly, live, to everyone in the channel (except you – you don’t hear yourself talk).01_starting_screen_flat

On your first launch, you will be placed into channel #99, called “Info,” which has an audio loop playing with basic instructions. This is meant to provide you with an initial test to assure that you are successfully connected with Virtual Airwaves – if you can hear a voice speaking, everything is good. Note that this is still a 2-way channel – you can talk over the recorded audio, and other people in the channel would hear you.

(Note: as with any iOS app, the first time you launch it, you will be asked to authorize our use of your device’s location services and notification services. Please approve these two requests! Without them, you won’t be able to use all of Virtual Airwaves’ features.)

Public Channels

You can select a different channel using the Channels list. Simply hit the Channels button to make the list appear. (You can also tap the channel bar at the bottom if that is easier for your fingers to reach.) Simply tap on a different channel to select it, and you will be moved to that channel (and the list will disappear).

02_channel_list_btn_flat

Let’s look closer at the list of channels. Different channels contain different audiences of users, and each may have different underlying rules for who can access them. Your initial channel list contains only public channels; these channels all have a number, and some have names as well to tell more about them. Public channels are visible and available to all users.03_channel_list_flat

In most public channels, you will only be able to communicate with people who are physically near you; typical range is several miles. During our early test period, when there may not be active users near you, we have made Channel 1 special in that it is “global”; you will be able to hear and talk to others in that channel without regard to distance.

Some public channels are fenced – these are restricted to only be available in your channel list when you are located within a specific area, such as a certain part of town, or, say, on a school campus. With these channels, only people within its boundaries can communicate together. As you move around, these channels may appear or disappear from your list as you enter and exit their defined areas. If you are currently in such a channel and you move out of its area, you will be dropped out of that channel. (Fenced public channels are designated by a “fence” icon).

Private Channels

Private channels let you control who can use them; before you can access a private channel, you must have a claim code to join it. You can create your own private channels and invite anyone you wish by sending them the claim code code in any manner you want: by instant message, by email, or just by telling them.

05_channel_create_dialog_flatPrivate channels are simple to create and simple to delete, so you can use them for any group that makes sense, even a temporary one: create one for a one day event like a hike or bike ride, or for a week-long convention, or for your soccer team’s fall season, or all year long for your family. Notice that joining (or creating) a private channel does not tie you to the other members of that channel in any other way – there is no sharing of any contact info, so there won’t be any emails, or pictures, or postings on your social networks.   The only thing in common is the possession of the claim code needed to join the channel.04_channel_create_btn_flat06_private_channel_list_flat

To create a private channel of your own, just go to the Channel list page, and tap Create. Give the channel a name, tap Submit, and voilà, you have a channel!

(During our Testing Phase, private channels are automatically set to expire in 1 month, and are limited to a maximum of 25 members. Later, we will provide ways to extend these settings.)

Sharing A Channel

To share this channel with others, you simply need to share the claim code, which is a short string of letters and numbers (just like an airline confirmation code). This code is shown on the channel’s information page, which is shown when you first create the channel, and which you can always revisit from the Channel List by tapping the “ⓘ” symbol. You can share the claim code however you want; you can use the typical email or text message techniques by tapping the Share icon, or you can simply read the code or write it out for someone since it is so short.

There is no special security for this claim code; anyone who gets the code can join the channel. However, there is no need to worry since at no time will anyone who uses this claim code ever see any information about you, so you can feel safe sharing it with people whom you don’t want to include in your social networks.07_channel_claim_codes_flat

(You may have noticed that there is also a second code displayed, called the “owner code.” This is simply another claim code for the channel, but with special powers: whoever uses that code has all the same administrative abilities as you, the channel’s creator. That means anyone who uses this code can delete the channel, so be careful with whom you share it!)

When your friends receive the claim code from you, using it is simple. If you used the Share button to send it via email or text message, those messages will include a link; assuming they already have Virtual Airwaves installed, they can simply tap on the link, and the channel will be added to their Channel List.

Or, if they want to join the channel manually, they can tap “Join” on their Channel List page, and then enter the claim code themselves in the dialog. Either way, the result is that your channel will be added to their Channel List. (Private Channels are listed at the top, ahead of the Public Channels.)

Special Private Channel Features

Private channels have two extra features that make them more useful for staying in instant contact with your group:

Active User Counter

First, when you are actively in a private channel, Virtual Airwaves displays how many other active users are currently in that channel; this number is shown inside the big blue button, next to the population icon.

This number represents the number of others at this very instant who are actually in your channel, with Virtual Airwaves as their active app on their device. This number will change immediately as users come into (or exit out of) your current channel, so you will know exactly how many people will be hearing anyone talking on this channel. This helps you know in advance whether “the room is empty,” or whether you have everyone you expected participating with you at that moment.

Ring Button

To communicate with a group of people, you often need a way of getting their attention; the Ring button gives you a way to do that.

When this button is pressed, Virtual Airwaves sends an instant notification to everyone who is a member of the channel, i.e., who has this channel in their Channel List. If they are already actively in this channel, they will hear a short ring and see a temporary message. If they are using Virtual Airwaves but are in a different channel at the moment, they will hear a short ring and be given a choice to switch channels. if they are not using Virtual Airwaves at all, they will get a system notification that, if clicked on, will bring them directly into the app, and directly into this channel!

Note: this feature is dependent on Apple’s external services, so there can be some delay, but typically these notifications are delivered within just a few seconds. Also, the user must have authorized the Virtual Airwaves app to provide notifications, so it is possible that some users may have “muted” this service.

Getting Rid of Private Channels

Leaving a channel you’ve joined

Once you join someone’s channel (using their claim code), how do you get out of it? Simply swipe-left on the channel in your Channel List. This will expose a button labeled “Remove”; you can tap the button to remove the channel, or swipe right to re-cover the button and leave the channel as it is.

If you tap the Remove button, the channel will be removed from your Channel List, you will be unable to access that channel, and you will no longer be associated with that channel in any way, including not receiving any more “rings” notifications from that channel.

If you remove a channel by mistake, you can always re-join the channel the same way you did the first time, i.e. using the original claim code. Also note that you can remove a channel even if you are the channel’s creator! In that case, you will be unable to access the channel, but the channel continues to exist. If you want to re-join the channel, you must use the claim code like anyone else. (To re-join as the creator, you will need to use the special-powered owner code).

Destroying (deleting) a channel you created

You can only do this if you are the creator of the channel, or if you joined the channel using the special-powered owner code (which makes you the creator). This is performed with the same action: simply swipe-left on the channel in your Channel List to expose a button labeled “Destroy” (as well as the Remove button we discussed above). Again, you can either tap the button, or swipe-right to recover the button and proceed without causing any action.

If you destroy a channel, it permanently ceases to exist, and there is no going back. After this, the claim codes will no longer work – the channel is gone.

Try The Echo Channel!

In case you don’t have any friends on the system yet, you can still test the system by yourself: just for fun, we have created a private channel with a special echo feature. Normally you can’t hear yourself when you transmit; but with this special Echo channel, anything you or anyone else transmits will be repeated back over the air about 5 seconds later. Like any other private channel, you will need a claim code to join it; for the echo channel, the claim code is the word “echo”! Go to the Channel List page, tap “Join”, and enter the 4 letters “e-c-h-o”.

Want to Join our Beta Program?

Fill out the interest form on the virtualairwaves home page.

Comments 2
  • Sue Keefer
    Posted on

    Sue Keefer Sue Keefer

    Reply Author

    Are users having any problems keeping track of these code numbers? I would need to keep a list somewhere, which would be another thing to keep track of.


    • Roger Spreen
      Posted on

      Roger Spreen Roger Spreen

      Reply Author

      Hi, Sue – thanks for your question! The goal is that you shouldn’t ever have to keep track of claim codes. But there are 2 sides to that: (1) as the creator of a channel, and (2) as a user.

      If you create a channel, its claim codes are always available to you right in the app; in your channel list, every channel you created has an “info” button which leads to a channel info page, where the codes are displayed. In most cases, you don’t even need to use the explicit claim code, as it can be more convenient to use the “share” button to send the code embedded in a text message or email.

      As the user of a channel, once you’ve initially claimed it, you shouldn’t ever need the code again. (And if you received the claim code through a text message or email, you may never have seen the explicit claim code, either, if you just clicked the link.) The only case where you might need to keep the code is if you remove the channel, and then later on decide you want to re-join, but that’s not a typical case. Currently we don’t display the used claim codes for the users since there’s no real reason for it; we may yet find a reason to display it, but for now we’re erring on the side of keeping the app simpler.

      But there is actually an interesting “3rd side” to this topic, and that’s “multiple devices”. Part of the beauty of the app is that you can just turn it on and use it – no signing in, no email validation, no privacy concerns – no user accounts. We think that’s a very important aspect, that it is so approachable and usable without any setup. Every device is its own independent thing, its own individual handset. However, people may want to transfer their channels to another device, and right now there’s no easy way to do that. Ultimately we intend to let you (optionally) create an account, which will enable a variety of features, including the ability to persist your channels and transfer them to another device. This will be another way in which you won’t have to keep track of claim codes – your channels will just all be in your account.