Students from across the University of California can now meet their counterparts at different campuses through a new video chat application.
On UCMeTalk, which officially launched last week, people with a valid UC email address can video chat with others in the UC school system. After filling out a form with information like name, gender, college and major, users are randomly paired with someone else who is on the site at the time.
“When you go on something like Chatroulette, you meet someone overseas, or someone weird, or someone who’s not like-minded or on the same level as you,” said Anthony Liu, a UC Irvine alumnus. “(With UCMeTalk) you meet someone at the UC who knows what you’re going through. It’s really zoned in on the UC ““ it makes it a lot more personal of an experience.”
Liu came onboard as a web developer for the site in July, after Omar Hilmy, a fourth-year African and Middle Eastern studies student at UCLA, and two of his childhood friends from Irvine, Calif., began work on the website in January.
The three friends came up with the idea for the website during winter break after being bored for weeks and playing video games, Hilmy said.
“If you’ve ever been to Irvine, (you know it’s) a really boring city. We wanted to talk to other college students,” he said.
The friends would often go on websites like Chatroulette when they were bored, Hilmy said. But unlike Chatroulette, where users are complete strangers, the friends wanted to create a program where they could meet other UC students, he said.
One of the friends, Nazir Katbi, a fourth-year building construction management student at Purdue University in Indiana, coordinated the development of the networking site after he and his friends first thought of the idea.
The college students behind the new website spent almost eight months developing the site Â”“ which has costed about $10,000 so far ““ with the help of money from friends and family, Katbi said.
The process of developing the website wasn’t free from roadblocks.
The group of friends hit a bug in the programming of the site, which delayed their progress for three weeks, Katbi said.
“When you encounter one of these roadblocks ““ this is going to sound cliche ““ but you just have to believe in yourself,” Katbi said. “It’s those types of things that test your fortitude and belief in the idea.”
Although Katbi isn’t a UC student, he said thinks it will help students looking to form new relationships.
He said when he first moved to the Midwest for college, he expected to meet and stay friends with many students. But after the first couple of weeks, he said he stuck with the same group of friends and student organizations.
About 300 people ““ mostly students, with some alumni and professors ““ have registered on the website, Katbi said.
So far, primarily students have used the website, because the friends passed out flyers and advertised to college students on Facebook and Twitter.
The students who created the website said they are working on adding features like a virtual debate room where users can watch professors and students can discuss a specific topic, Katbi said.
Katbi and the other creators have started to organize “mixers,” where users can log on at a scheduled time to talk about a specific subject, he said.
Taylor Quimby, a first-year music student, said he might be interested in using the website if music students were logging on at the same time to video chat.
But with many hours of french horn practice and homework, Quimby said he probably won’t have time to try out UCMeTalk.
“It sounds like something that would be fun to do if I was with a group of friends, and we were bored,” he said. “But time is definitely an issue for me.”