Zencastr has been trying to change the state of podcasting by easily connecting hosts with guests through their Web browsers. It uses a voice-over-IP (VoIP) connection driven by WebRTC to make this possible, and as of this new year, it comes with stand-alone VoIP, an audio meter, a muting tool, text chat, and “hand raising.”
The most prominent addition, the Zencastr blog notes, is the removal of a need for third party VoIP client. Because Zencastr was initially meant to set up meetings and record interactions, it skipped the creation of its own VoIP client and allowed other programs such as Skype and Google Hangouts to pick up the slack. Now, though, it has moved past that stage and included its own native program that users can select with the “VOIP” button on the Zencastr main screen. “ON” uses the Zencastr VoIP; “OFF” uses a third party program.
Although Zencastr says the addition of its own VoIP client is its “most exciting” feature, that does not mean the rest of the lineup falls short of impressive. The addition of an audio meter – which only works with Zencastr VoIP – gives hosts a look at their own microphone volume level and all the levels of their guests. It is unclear whether or not hosts will be able to change the volume level of their guests, but in any case, the meter can provide useful information concerning the recording of all voices in a chat.
It is clear, however, that hosts are now able to mute participants during a recording. Guests can also mute themselves.
The chat feature then gives all participants the ability to send messages without interrupting the audio in a podcast. Zencastr says it can be good for sharing links, non-verbal cues, and trash talk. Users can decide how abrasive they want to get.
Finally, the main screen that shows all users, their volume levels, and whether or not they are muted, now gains a “hand raising” features that can quietly alert hosts that an individual has something to say. When a participant clicks to “raise their hand,” he or she will initiate a small hand icon on the main screen. Hosts can then decide whether or not they want to respond to this person without having to complete a verbal conversation. Hosts and guests can also use the hand raising feature as a gateway to a text chat.
All the features listed above are live and ready to use in Zencastr. These are likely the last updates users will see before the podcasting platform completes its beta stage and begins a full production release.