Want to keep elderly parents company virtually during the pandemic? – How to create a FaceTime Portal between iPads

When the Coronavirus Pandemic hit and I started working from home, I started worrying about my elderly parents who could no longer babysit my niece and nephew on a regular basis, go to church, go to restaurants, meet with friends, etc..  They were getting lonely and were starting to feel the strain of their new-found isolation.  Since I had recently bought them a Wyze cam for Christmas and had one of my own, and had previously shared those feeds to help me monitor their security feed, I hacked together a sub-standard and annoying “portal” using the cameras and our respective iPads.  Theirs was in their family room and I set mine up in my office. For most of the year, I kept them company during the work day and it did wonders for their ability to cope with this new world.

The solution had all sorts of problems though. There was a significant audio delay, the connection would go down from time to time, the Wyze interface was difficult for my parents to use, I had to wear headphones to prevent echo feedback (since Wyze has no echo cancellation), and it seemed that the connection would get choppy whenever they pulled out their phones (seemed like an interference issue).  I’d bought them a WiFi Extender , but it didn’t seem to help.  During a particularly choppy conversation recently, I started googling for alternate solutions and I happened upon a github project called teleportme by PaperCutSoftware, which was a simple scheduled shell script on a pair of Mac Minis running FaceTime to establish a portal between 2 coastal offices above each office’s water coolers.  They were scheduled to establish a FaceTime call every morning and hang up after work.  I wouldn’t have thought of using FaceTime running for hours a day, but apparently it was possible and reliable – and you don’t need a cell provider account to use it, so I set out to see if I could do this using a pair of iPads.  Using tips from their setup, this is how I figured out how to do it. Continue reading