How video chat helps military families and others stay in touch over long distances

Military families have unique challenges staying connected during long deployments, while high travel costs make it difficult for other families to get together for special occasions. This is when video chat technology is able to bridge the distances between loved ones.

Seventy-one percent of respondents in a survey conducted by ooVoo in late 2010 said they'd be willing to use video chat to connect with friends and family during holidays and special occasions. Video chat is a fun and convenient way to communicate face-to-face, but some families are using the technology in creative ways. Some examples of inventive ways people are using video chat to stay connected include:

1. Cooking a favorite family meal together and enjoying the food and flavors you both remember.
2. Reading a child a story and saying goodnight, giving a virtual hug and kiss.
3. Playing a board game or cards while chatting it up about current events.

In honor of our troops this Memorial Day, and to help families stay connected, visit to take advantage of free video chat for the month of May. Current ooVoo users also get the free upgrade that allows up to six people to participate on the same video call for as long as they want, at no cost.

The result: It is easier than ever for families and friends to stay in touch, whether they are apart for a single day, or for a longer-term separation such as a military deployment. A lesser-known ooVoo feature is the ability to record and send a video greeting to email accounts - ideal for troops and their families.

"Video chat gives military families the opportunity to stay connected and share special times with loved ones," said Lisa Dunster, founder and president of Compass Retreat Center, a support group for National Guard members and Reservists. "We're grateful that ooVoo is providing a way to break down the barrier of distance during deployment and help strengthen family bonds through technology."

To get the most from video chat visits, consider these tips:

* Be spontaneous, have fun and be yourself. Video chat allows the real you to come through and this is what forms a connection to people on the other end.

* Bring the laptop or mobile device to the kitchen or a room where everyone is gathered, allowing natural interaction rather than a formal call.

* Wander in and out of view and perform even mundane activities together during the visit.

* Don't automatically end visits when the conversation lulls. Some video chat sessions last for hours!