Vivox voice alternatives

Vivox may be the gold standard of voice in video games, and be the best integrated with Second Life and OpenSim viewers, but it isn’t the only game in town. 

TeamSpeak, for example, is another commercial voice product used on some grids. However, like Skype, it requires users to have a separate application running for voice.

This wasn’t an obstacle for Avalonia Estates owner Justin Ireman.

“Most people use Skype these days, or have other applications running on their desktop, and so it was felt that for those that want to use voice, it would be only a minor inconvenience,” Ireman told Hypergrid Business. “Once set up it is available easily enough.”

“It also provides file transfer services, ideal if you want to pass someone a great texture or a file that cannot be transferred in world,” he added. “The voice server is hosted on our servers, and voice chat is encrypted, and so is under our control.”

TeamSpeak also offers other benefits that the free Vivox service does not, he said, such as higher quality voice, voice chat available without having to be logged into the grid, unlimited multiple channels for groups or private voice chats, as well as channels for each region.

Vivox co-founder and CTO Jim Toga responded by saying that Vivox offers many similar features.

“Vivox has always offered unlimited channels — and participants — in both 3D  audio and 2D group audio along with private conversations,” Toga told Hypergrid Business. “As far as using Vivox communications when not connected to an OpenSim grid — it’s entirely possible, but we don’t supply a full client application that does this.  If someone wanted to create one using the viewer logic as a basis, we would certainly encourage it. The avatar credentials used to log in to Vivox are authenticated by Vivox servers and do not require a simulator involvement to participate in voice.”

Open source voice

Open source options include FreeSwitch and Whisper/Mumble. Like TeamSpeak, both of these options require that grid owners host their own voice servers.

Some OpenSim users, like government agencies, prefer this because they want all communications to stay on their own servers.

“We plan to migrate from Mumble to FreeSwitch in the very near future,” said Douglas Maxwell,  the science and technology manager for virtual world strategic applications at the U.S. Army’s Simulation & Training Technology Center, which runs the MOSES grid.

The Defense Department's MOSES grid runs its own open-source voice servers. (Image courtesy MOSES.)
The Defense Department’s MOSES grid runs its own open-source voice servers. (Image courtesy MOSES.)

Mumble is a higher-quality voice solution than FreeSwitch, with better audio and spacial support, but requires customized viewers. In addition, only Windows clients are currently available.

Douglas Maxwell
Douglas Maxwell

“There are a significant number of the MOSES users who are academics, and therefore also use the Mac platform,” Maxwell told Hypergrid Business. “Since the Department of Defense officially uses the Windows platform and my mandate is to research soldier training, I cannot justify the expenditure to perform the coding a Mac client would require to support Mumble.”

Part of his mandate for the MOSES grid is to create an environment that can operate on an isolated computer system, or on a secure network, completely separate from the Internet.

“This requirement prevents us from using the Vivox service,” he said.

When the grid was first deployed, FreeSwitch was not an option due to firewall rules, but a new firewall appliance has since been installed that offers more configuration control and allows FreeSwitch to work, he said.

“Recently, I took a look at the number of support requests for Mac and voice support and the volume of request simply could not be ignored,” he said. “Hopefully this solution will allow the Mac — and Linux — users to fully utilize all of the MOSES capabilities.  It should also allow broader participation in the weekly office hours as well as the experimental scalability events.”

The Virtual Worlds Grid also uses FreeSwitch, according to founder Myron Curtis. The entire grid, and the voice server, runs on two home PCs with quad core processors, he said.

“FreeSwitch runs on the region server box from the C: drive,” he told Hypergrid Business. “It is a low cost system but quite effective, and seldom has much lag.”

Maria Korolov