Perch Launches Video “Portal” Service For Distributed Teams

Perch for iOS wants to help businesses build a persistent video portal between their offices to help teams work together more effectively. The service originally started out as an asynchronous video chat tool for families, but as the company’s CEO Danny Robinson told me yesterday, the team quickly realized that businesses would be the ideal market for this technology. Robinson officially unveiled the new version of Perch at Vancouver’s increasingly popular GROW conference today.

The idea here is that you can hang an iPad on the wall in a high-traffic area of an office (or just connect a cheap iPod touch to a larger screen), and whenever Perch’s face-recognition algorithms notice that somebody is standing in front of it, it will un-mute the microphone and let you talk to the team on the other side. The video, of course, is always live.

As Robinson stressed, this tool is not meant to be a replacement for video-conferencing software. Instead, he believes that it can help teams bridge the culture gap between offices and locations.

Besides the “office portal,” Perch can also be used for regular Skype-like one-on-one conversations. Just like Yammer, for example, you can register with your company email address and quickly set up a network for your company and then initiate conversations from there. One interesting twist here is that the address book regularly grabs images from all of the other people on the network (assuming they also have the app running), so you can always see when somebody else is available and what they are currently doing. The other nifty feature is that whoever you are trying to call will see your video feed before accepting the call, so you always have a chance to reject the request if it’s somebody you don’t want to talk to.

As Robinson noted, his company is mostly seeing inbound interest from larger companies, while startups seem to be more reluctant to adopt it. Clearly, it would take a bit of a culture shift for individual remote workers at a startup to adopt this technology, so it makes sense that larger offices — where you don’t have an expectation of privacy anyway — would feel more comfortable with having this kind of persistent video portal on their walls.