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Video chatting is a convenient way to talk to friends, and new innovations make it more fun than ever to stay in touch. Distort reality by changing the filters or effects on your screen. Video chat services like iChat for Mac users or Tango for Androids even let you edit or distort the image, kind of like a funhouse mirror.


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Across Canada, we're currently being asked to practice social distancing and — except for workers in jobs deemed essential — to stay homeas much as possible during the COVID pandemic in order to 'flatten the curve'. As a result, most of us probably haven't seen any friends, romantic partners, or family members outside of our immediate households for several weeks. With coffee dates, happy hours, and dinner parties — not to mention holidays and religious celebrations — on hold indefinitely, maintaining our social networks and spending time with loved ones suddenly looks very different for the coming months than what we are normally used to.

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But, people are getting creative, and with the help of technology, we're finding ways of spending some quality time together virtually. Here are some sites, apps and plug-ins that might make connecting only online a little more fun:. A video-chat platform that's been around for a few years, Houseparty works on both mobile and desktop and lets you talk to up to eight friends at once the max on Whatsapp and FaceTime is four — the app can tell you when a contact is online and when a friend is near you, depending on your privacy and location settings.

You can switch between "rooms," which can be made private or not, and there are even a few simple, built-in games like Quick Draw!

Tip: You can record the "party" and send your offline friends a Fac video message — a relatively new app feature. Jackbox's streaming party games work for both in-person gatherings and remote competitions.

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The most well-known are Drawful 2 which is currently free until April 10Fibbage and Quiplash, but there are over two dozen individual games available on the site and up to 10, players can each game. To play together remotely, you'll also need a video conferencing service or co-streaming product instructions here.

Other buzzy multi-player games right now include Mario Kart Tourwhere you can compete with up to seven friends using your phone, and Animal Crossing: New Horizonsa new Nintendo Switch game. Netflix Party. Stream the latest Netflix releases in sync with friends by installing this free Chrome-browser extension on your laptop or desktop; a chatroom sidebar lets everyone share commentary or socialize while the show is playing.

It's an entertaining way to watch a buzzy new series, or simply spend time with people you miss. You can even set up simultaneous video chat on your phone with the same friends, if you want to share audio and video reactions with the group. Try Kast instead. Board games are a social staple for all ages. Apps like Scrabble GO, launched earlier this year, and Words With Friends allow for friendly back-and-forth competition that doesn't necessarily require everyone to be online at the same time.

Plus, with the online versions, there are multiple ways to play each game, and you can always find someone new to compete against. Other popular, free online board games include Uno and Settlers of Catan. It's no secret that Zoom has been a popular tool for video-conferencing while people stayhome.

If you're not familiar, The Verge has a good primer on how to set up an and host meetings. In recent weeks, it has exploded in popularity for everything from university lectures to virtual happy hours. A basic is free and there are more features than Google Hangouts or FaceTime — for example, you can use CBC's Schitt's Creek backgroundsturn into a vegetableor celebrate your love of memes to spice up your next social call.

However, the app is not without its security issues — so stay up to date and do what you can to protect your privacy. Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at trucnguyen. A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

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The best free group video chat apps for having a lot of fun

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Culture 6 fun ways to play, chat and hang with others online Ideas for being together-apart with your family, friends and neighbours. Social Sharing. Here are some sites, apps and plug-ins that might make connecting only online a little more fun: Houseparty A video-chat platform that's been around for a few years, Houseparty works on both mobile and desktop and lets you talk to up to eight friends at once the max on Whatsapp and FaceTime is four — the app can tell you when a contact is online and when a friend is near you, depending on your privacy and location settings.

Jackbox Games Jackbox's streaming party games work for both in-person gatherings and remote competitions. Netflix Party Stream the latest Netflix releases in sync with friends by installing this free Chrome-browser extension on your laptop or desktop; a chatroom sidebar lets everyone share commentary or socialize while the show is playing. Zoom It's no secret that Zoom has been a popular tool for video-conferencing while people stayhome. Related Stories How to find your chat tempo with a new love Got resistance bands?

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