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HeyCosmo: Ten Webcams Walk into a Bar

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Now this seems like a pretty obvious evolution for Web video. HeyCosmo, a product from startup Arsenal Interactive launching today, is offering group environments for webcam chat, aiming to create live poker games, fantasy drafts, and cooking shows.

heycosmo3.jpgUp to 10 people can join a room and 50 more can watch, with websites, games, videos, and music played in sync for all the participants. The service is launching with a Texas Hold ‘Em setup, but anyone can create a room for their own purposes, for free and without ads. Eventually users will be able to charge others to participate in their rooms. (Arsenal CEO James Im says he’s encouraging users to report inappropriate use of the product.)

We weren’t able to demo HeyCosmo yesterday because it requires a Windows-only download and works only in Internet Explorer. Im says this is because the company has created its own video codec rather than using, say, Adobe Flash, which works everywhere but would cost more than he wants to pay.

That brings up a question: Why don’t existing video conference players, whose tools are already compatible with multiple platforms and browsers, have a better chance of doing this themselves? Im counters that argument with the contention that free consumer tools are beyond conception for companies used to providing enterprise tools and pocketing monthly fees. Sure, but you better get it together to make your product more accessible before someone else does!

heycosmo2.jpgMountain View, California-based Arsenal Interactive is a year old, with $1 million in angel funding raised. The company has 13 employees and hopes to raise $3 million more in the next few months to expand. The name “HeyCosmo” is sort of a riff on “hello world.”

HeyCosmo was also covered by VentureBeat and TechCrunch this morning.

12 Responses to “HeyCosmo: Ten Webcams Walk into a Bar”

  1. Golden Gate

    I don’t know if it was just me, but I saw bunch of people only guys :-( doing stuff when I logged-in, but it would be nice to engage with old pals to catch-up once in a while…

    Does anyone know their pipeline of games or other apps they are working? HeyCosmo… are you folks considering to add a dating or match making function?

    Ladies, get your webcams and see you there!

  2. This is a rapidly evolving area of technology that is in search of a behavior. Video as a social networking addition is a recent phenomena outside of porn.

    Heycosmo has at least frame the value of being their video tech around the idea of doing something together other than just talking. Operator11 has focused more on the Andy Warhol-esque people as personality.

    I think its too early to tell what will work. Though I suspect that it has more to do with game play and information dissemination than with voyeurism and exhibitionism.

  3. i too wish for firefox support soon. i shot support an email and actually got a reply. wow. anyway, i dusted off my IE to check it out, and i was pleasantly surprised. i like the fact that i can share my tunes on winamp with other ppl. i haven’t checked out the texas hold-em yet, but i’d imagine it would be pretty fun seeing other ppl’s “poker faces”. hmm… strip poker anyone?

  4. Martin Chicago

    I used this program, a little bit tough to get it to start but once in it is pretty amazing… I hope to see more people playing and chatting… I will…

  5. Interesting site with some interesting features. Only plays on IE, but thats when you use the nifty IE Firefox Extension! Video quality is nice.

  6. New Fan

    I am impressed! This was inevitable, but I am really glad to see that someone is pushing the envelope in terms of elevating the real-time collaborative experience inside the online social networking world. Get the right balance of good technology (which appears HeyCosmo enjoys) and compelling content/experience, and this site could be off to the races! I will follow this with close attention.

  7. I just tried out HeyCosmo and was really suprised at the quality of this sharing/social entertainment site. As the site catches on and it has more participants this will be viable danger to my work productivity.

    My only issue is that I normally use FireFox as a browser, but I will use Explorer for this. Come on people, join so we can play!

  8. HEYCOSMO is a genuinely fun version of online poker. Video conferencing is something that has long been missing from other poker sites, and now I can’t imagine going back to staring at a blank table. Not only does it become more social, but also incorporates essential aspects of the game which are absent in other versions. Now I can call my friend’s bluffs and laugh as they struggle to keep a straight face. Great job HEYCOSMO, I’m hooked

  9. The best site I have ever come across for virtual collaboration. It is a cool tool for all the younger generation seeking online social collaboration, with a context. The context could be fun gaming night, movie nights, remote birthday parties, real estate seminars, etc… Truly mind boggling and something that is going to take off and compete with Myspace eventually with a more realtime touch to it.. Kudos to HeyCosmo!!!!!!!