Mantis: Next-generation Cloud Technology for WebRTC

OpenTok_allplatforms (1)Today we’re proud to announce our latest WebRTC innovation: Mantis, a cloud-scaling infrastructure for our OpenTok on WebRTC platform.

This is another big step forward for the TokBox team as we continue to pursue our goal of providing application developers with simple yet powerful APIs. APIs that not only leverage the latest standards to deliver the best possible experience, but that are backed by a scalable, smart cloud which supports interoperability across a variety of end-points.

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New changes for WebRTC in Chrome 26

A new version of Chrome is out, and with it changes in the WebRTC stack. We dug through the commit logs for Chrome 26, and found the following list of WebRTC bug fixes, enhancements, and updates that we thought were relevant to the OpenTok community:

Highlights

  • A lot of audio bugs in WebRTC were fixed dealing with crashes and non-standard audio bitrates
  • Chrome on Android can now be WebRTC-enabled by enabling a flag
  • Improvements to the connectivity stack in WebRTC
  • Ability to set media constraints for audio

Full list

  • Avoids crash in WebRTC audio clients for unsupported capture sample rates.
  • Avoids crash in WebRTC audio clients for 96kHz render rate on Mac OSX.
  • Enable webrtc build on android.
  • Set WebMediaPlayerMS network state to loading instead of loaded
    • This indirectly fixes the problem where WebRTC audio is muted upon refresh. The HTMLMediaElement will try to cache fully Loaded videos when the element is destructed. This will signal to the HTMLMediaElement that the player was destroyed when loading, so it needs to recreate WebMediaPlayerMS upon destruction of the media tag.
  • Allowing multiple MediaPlayers to connect to WebRtcAudioDeviceImpl by sharing one WebRtcAudioRenderer.
    •  The audio is gone when new PeerConnection is connecting to a media stream. What is happening is that the stream will pause the existing MediaPlayer and create new MediaPlayers to associated to it. But since we only allow one WebRtcAudioRenderer to connect to WebRtcAudioDeviceImpl, the new MediaPlayers audio won’t be able to associate to stream.

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OpenTok on WebRTC now supports Firefox!

OpenTok_WebRTC_FF-1On February 4th Mozilla and Google announced that their respective browsers could now talk to each other via WebRTC. This is another big milestone in WebRTC’s path towards becoming available in all modern web browsers, albeit, today only in an early development build of Firefox, version 21+ (currently Nightly and soon to be Aurora).

We’ve also been working hard on making OpenTok on WebRTC work with both Firefox and Chrome so you too can enjoy all this cross-browser goodness!

Off to the races

The first thing that you need is version 21 or higher of Firefox, currently available through the Aurora FTP site and Nightly site.

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LiveNinja: Video chat face-to-face with experts

There is a new breed of Ninjas taking over. Instead of covert agents wielding nunchucks and wearing ninja-yoroi, you’ll find gentler individuals donned in yoga pants, weaponed with guitars and Adobe CSS. LiveNinja, our App of the Week, is responsible. They’ve created a searchable marketplace of experts (Certified Ninjas) in the topics you care about, using the OpenTok API to facilitate live video consultations.

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What I learned on my cross platform development panel

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of being a part of the Mobile + Web developer conference held at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco. I spoke on a panel about where development was headed in a world where Web + Mobile are the two predominant platforms. There were four of us total, and we had a great time talking about how each of us lived in, and viewed the future of development in this two platform world. The panel was composed of (beyond myself) John Hammink, a QA engineer from Mozilla, Jonathan Smiley, a partner at Zurb building their own HTML5 framework, and Ted Drake, a senior accessibility engineer from Intuit.

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What the CU-RTC-Web vs. WebRTC debate means for developers

About six months ago, Microsoft released an alternative proposal to the W3C WebRTC 1.0 Working Draft[2], dubbed CU-RTC-Web[1]. Like all W3C groups, the WebRTC Working Group enlists membership from a majority of the industry, including names like Nokia, Cisco, Google, and Mozilla. The most important question raised by the Microsoft proposal is how the Working Group would react to criticism of its draft proposal, and whether Microsoft would accept the published APIs of the Working Group, even if CU-RTC-Web is not adopted. So what exactly does this mean for the development community?

The Microsoft draft outlines a low-level API that allows developers more direct access to the underlying network and media delivery components. It exposes objects representing network sockets and gives explicit application control over the media transport[3]. In contrast, the WebRTC API abstracts these details with a text-based interface that passes encoded strings between the two participants in the call. With the WebRTC draft, developers are responsible for passing the strings between communicating browsers, but not explicitly configuring media transport for a video chat.

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The fundamentals behind a successful hackathon

 PennApps hackathon was the largest college hackathon in the world and it took place this past weekend. It produced some of the best/most entertaining hacks that I’ve seen at any hackathon: Remote controlled battle bots, Automatic Wifi Authentication for facebook friends, enlarging media seamlessly from one to multiple mobile screens, app that messages you if you forget to put required items in your backpack, exploring neighborhoods from the comfort of your couch with augmented reality, just to name a few.

Looking back, I would say that this hackathon was a smashing success, and I’m sure the other sponsors would say the same. From my perspective as a developer evangelist, here’s why PennApps turned out to be a legendary hackathon and what we can learn from it:

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A new kind of hackathon

 Last weekend we had the pleasure of sponsoring University Hacker Olympics. Unlike your typical hackathons, this one emphasized connecting University students with industry professionals.

Personally, I thought the event was innovative in the field of recruiting. In the traditional interview process, sometimes great candidates were dismissed because their shyness or nervousness inhibited them from performing. 1-1 interviews can be intimidating, we’ve all been there. From the interviewer’s perspective, asking candidates to solve problems does not provide any valuable insight into how pleasant it would be to work with them in a working environment.

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Parse has OpenTok iOS SDK’s back(end), so you don’t have to

Developing an iOS App itself is a huge undertaking: you want your product to be beautiful, interactive, and functional. That’s why Parse makes so much sense, it helps you avoid writing a backend server to power your App by giving you a data store and providing the most basic web services. These days many web services are incredibly powerful and help developers do really amazing things, like OpenTok, but they are targeted at having a backend. That’s where Parse Cloud Code comes in: it gives developers the ability to leverage the best of a back-end server in the path of least resistance.

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OpenTok for Mobile: now on Android OS

Nearly 7 months ago, we publicly announced that the OpenTok API would extend its reach to native mobile application developers by publishing the OpenTok iOS SDK. In the time since, we have tightened the performance of the SDK runtime for iOS devices and spent a good deal of time learning about how best to deliver video to the mobile platform. While iOS commands a large portion of the mobile app market, it is intuitive that we should build similar SDKs for other popular platforms outside of the browser. It is a pleasure to announce that we are developing the OpenTok Android SDK, to allow native Android developers to bring live video chat to their apps.

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