Help set family up with video conferencingOne of the hardest things about lockdown for many of us is being apart from our loved ones. But difficult though this is, technology has largely come through for us and provided ways to talk, see, and play with those we have been separated from. More of us than ever are now using apps like Zoom, House Party, Skype, FaceTime, and others to hang out remotely.

Also read: Fed up with Zoom? Google Meet is now free for everyone

But what if the loved one you wish to speak to doesn’t have any of those apps installed on their devices? And what if they don’t know how to install them? What if they don’t get on with technology, or they have disabilities that prevent them from interacting with a smart device?

Where there is a will, there is a way! While there may not be a solution for every scenario, there are ways to get around these obstacles in the vast majority of cases. Read on, and let’s explore some options for setting family up with video conferencing solutions, even when you can’t offer tech support in person!

Echo Show

By far the best option for getting disabled or technophobic family members started with video conferencing is to get them an Echo Show. These have the significant advantage of offering Alexa’s “drop-in” function. Drop-in lets you simply appear on another person’s Echo device at any time, unprompted (as long as they have previously granted permission). This in turn means you can call a loved one even if they are unable to get to the device to hit “answer,” for example.

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Source: Amazon

Because you have to choose who can drop-in to any device via the settings, you will likely need to set the device up first before you send it on. Likewise, someone will need to be on-hand to help connect the device to the local WiFi.

Also read: The best Amazon Echo deals available now

Once set-up though, your friend or relative will be able to take calls without doing anything and even drop in on people by simply asking Alexa! You can even call from an Android or iOS device with the app installed. And just in case you’re worried about never getting a moment’s peace, you can also define set-times during which drop-in is enabled.

If you want to save money, you can alternatively use a Kindle Fire tablet and keep it in Show Mode. This works just like an Echo Show.

Here’s a video tutorial that may prove useful:

Setting up Zoom or Skype remotely

Another option is to install Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, or a similar app onto an Android device, iOS device, or Windows PC. This may be preferable if you hope to take part in large group chats, or if you’re interested in playing games etc.

Depending on what device the person you want to call is using, they may already have these apps installed. In that case, if you can talk them the set-up process over the phone, you’re good to go!

Also read: Houseparty: What is it and how it can help you stay socially connected

If the other person doesn’t have any of those apps however, or if they are unsure how to use them even with your instruction, you may need to handle the setup yourself. In that case,  you can get them to post the hardware to you, then install the software on their behalf. This does incur a small hygiene risk, but you can mitigate this by following our guide to cleaning a phone or tablet. If they are unable to get to a post office or post the device through your letterbox, you could instead buy them something new and have it delivered to them.

Samsung S20 Plus wash disinfect 2

This means buying something new for a single purpose, but the good news is that you can get plenty of devices for under $200 or even less! Check out our guides here:

When installing the video conferencing software, take this opportunity to also install either TeamViewer or Splashtop Remote. This will give you the ability to remote access the device and control it on the owner’s behalf. If your loved one isn’t able to launch the app themselves, or if they are prone to running into difficulties, you can offer assistance without leaving your home.

Also read: You might want to uninstall Houseparty, expert calls it a privacy ‘Trojan horse’

I recommend using a Windows PC  where possible, as this has the most support for a wide range of different screen sharing solutions and can be controlled from any other operating system. You can even remotely wake a PC from sleeping using Wake On LAN and port forwarding. It will need a wired ethernet connection though!

You can check out an old video I made on this topic here:

If you think that your loved one would be better served by a tablet or phone, Android is the way to go. While the default Splashtop account won’t let you control an Android or iOS device, TeamViewer does provide this service via another app called TeamViewer QuickSupport.

You might also have luck encouraging your loved ones to install QuickSupport themselves, as installing apps is a relatively straightforward process.

Here’s one last video, from the always-interesting Dave Bennett, explaining the process:

This software doesn’t support all Android devices, so make sure to do your research before investing in new hardware! The same goes for any other strategy in this article. Read around and ideally look for videos of people doing what you need to do with the precise same devices.

Let us know how you get on in the comments down below, and be sure to share your own solutions. It’s time for technology to step up and help us get through this difficult time together.

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