Adding Voice Functionality to an Existing Chat Application

Adding Voice Functionality to an Existing Chat Application

Published October 11, 2019 by Luke Oliff
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Have you ever gotten halfway through writing a long message to someone in a chat and think; wouldn’t this just be so much easier if I could talk to them? Of course, you have! By using the Nexmo Client SDK in your chat application, you’ll be able to do just that.

The demo application and a finished example can be found on GitHub now.

Prerequisites

Node & NPM

To get started you’re going to need Node and NPM installed. This guide uses Node 8 and NPM 6. Check they’re installed and up-to-date.

Both Node and NPM need to be installed and at the correct version. Go to nodejs.org and install the correct version if you don’t have it.

Nexmo CLI

To set up your application, you’ll need to install the Nexmo CLI. Install it using NPM in terminal.

Sign up for a free Nexmo account and set up the Nexmo CLI with the API key and secret which can be found on the dashboard.

Git (Optional)

You can use git to clone our demo application from GitHub.

For those not comfortable with git commands, don’t worry, I’ve you covered. This guide contains instructions on downloading the project as a ZIP file.

Follow this guide to install git

The Demo Application

The application is, first and foremost, a simple chat client. It allows two users (or more, if you configure it to do so) to log in and start chatting.

Basic Installation

To keep this guide easy to follow, clone the demo application straight from GitHub.

For those not comfortable with git commands, you can download the demo application as a zip file and unpack it locally.

Once cloned or unpacked, change into the new demo application directory.

Install the npm dependencies.

Now, start the application.

Now you can try it out in your favourite browser and view the application, which should be running at the default address: http://127.0.0.1:8080.

Screenshot of the chat login

Unconfigured, you’ll see a login box. You can’t log in because you don’t know who can log in yet!

Keep in mind, you’re just mocking authentication here, and you should be prepared to set up something real and secure for production applications.

Screenshot of the error on log in

Stop the application: In terminal or bash, you can use CTRL+C to stop the running process. As you make changes, you shouldn’t need to start or stop the application, as everything is requested fresh from the server every time you reload a page.

Super Simple Setup

In the demo (the one you’re running now,) there is a script to make the next steps much easier.

How the script works: It asks you for some input and then creates the application, conversation and users required for this guide by running all the setup commands you’d otherwise have to do manually. It then goes on to generate the config for the demo application. You can check out the code here to make sure it doesn’t do anything naughty.

Woah, you don’t want to run my script? You’d rather generate the config file manually? I’ve got your back – steps to create the config file manually.

Run the Setup Script

So, to configure the application for the coming steps, run the setup script.

The script asks some questions.

Screenshot of the setup-script being ran

By the end of it, it updates the config.js to look more like this.

So What Did That Script Do?!?

So, behind the scenes, the script carries out the following steps.

  • Create a Nexmo application using the nexmo app:create command and keeps note of the ID.
  • Create a Nexmo conversation using the nexmo conversation:create command and keeps note of the ID.
  • Create both users using the nexmo user:create command and keeps note of the IDs.
  • Add both users to the Nexmo conversation with nexmo member:add.
  • Generate JWTs for both users to access the application and keeps note of the JWTs.
  • Writes out the config to config.js using the IDs and JWTs it has kept.

Chitty Chitty Chat Chat

Now, you’ve configured our basic demo application; you can have a little chat! Here’s me testing it out with one of my colleagues.

Screenshot of chatting in the demo

Enable Audio

Now, you’re up and running. You have a demo application that you can use to chat with other people. Next, add a button to enable audio so you can also talk to each other.

The HTML

Find the following code inside the index.html file.

Replace the line <!-- /audio-toggle --> with the following HTML.

Now, let me explain the above code.

<audio> tags were added to the HTML spec to allow for embedding audio files (or streams) onto webpages. The tag is used to indicate a source (path/url) and version for the audio, allowing for multiple versions of the audio to be embedded/encoded for different contexts (or browsers, operating systems, etc).

Additionally, you’re adding a button that will be our toggle.

The index.html file should now contain a section that looks something like this.

These are all the HTML changes this time. So, what’s next?

The JavaScript

Next, you’ll edit the JavaScript for our demo application.

Find the following code inside the chat.js file.

Replace the line // audio-elements with the following JavaScript code.

This code ‘registers’ 3 new elements so you can more easily use the on-page elements throughout the JavaScript file.

Now, find this code inside the same chat.js file.

Replace the line // audio-toggle-event with the following JavaScript code.

This code also ‘registers’ a listener for the member:media event. When it sees that event, it then sends a console.log to the browser; like, member and event data. Especially useful for debugging. It’s also going to create some formatted text and update the messageFeed by prepending the text onto the existing feed.

Then, find this code inside the chat.js file.

Replace the line // audio-click-event with the following JavaScript code.

This code is a biggy. And, this too also registers a listener. This time, it is listening for when the user clicks on our audioToggle button that you’ve just added.

If a user clicks on the button and it was already toggled on, it toggles-off. If it was toggled off, it toggles-on.

When on, it enables audio by adding the audio stream’s URL to the tag and updates the styling of the button. Therefore, when off, it disables audio by removing the audio stream’s URL from the tag and updates the styling of the button.

The entire chat.js file should now look something (long) just like this.

Assuming you’ve got everything right, run npm start again and open the application at http://127.0.0.1:8080. If it was already running, you should just be able to refresh the page to get the latest version.

Screenshot of the chat log in with audio

If you don’t think the JavaScript is working and restarting NPM doesn’t help, use CTRL+F5 to refresh the webpage, which requests all the JS and CSS on the page fresh.

Login using the test credentials you’ve set up.

Screenshot of chatting with enable audio button

Now you’re logged in, you can see the message feed as before, and the button to Enable Audio. Go ahead and click on Enable Audio.

Allow the application to use your microphone. This is in Chrome for MacOS, other browsers and operating systems may vary.

Screenshot of microphone permission request

With both users logged in and having enabled audio, you can hold a conversation between the two users.

Screenshot of audio events in message feed

At this point, if you’re in a coffee shop and you’re testing it in two browser windows like I was, be prepared for frowns from your co-coffee-drinkers when you generate a noisy feedback loop.

Now you can click on Disable Audio to turn the microphone back off. Other users are alerted that you have disabled audio.

Screenshot of audio disabled events in message feed

The Results

There is always going to be a need to enable audio communication between web users and our Client SDK is a perfect solution for this.

Give it a try and let me know what you think in our Community Slack or in the comments section below.

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