Video Chat’s Time Is Coming by Steve Wildstrom

Video calling, video chat, and video conferencing are ideas that have been around for years, in some cases, for decades, without ever gaining much mainstream traction. Now the idea seems to finally be catching on, spurred by a combination of better technology and, perhaps as important, a much higher level of comfort with video.

Not that long ago, appearing „on television“ was an extraordinary event for most people. But in an age of YouTube and Facebook, when most of us carry a device capable of recording video—mobile phone, digital camera, or Flip—nearly all the time, video has lost its mystery. As a result, we are much more at ease with the idea of appearing on the screen.

At the same time, improving networks have made real-time streaming video practical.  The Picturephone that AT&T introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 used voice telephone lines and transmitted a black-and-white frame every two seconds (15 frames per second is now considered the bare minimum for quality video). Today a typical home broadband connection can easily handle full-screen standard definition video and a good one can do high-def,. In addition, nearly all laptops also feature built-in cameras. And there are conferencing rigs designed to work with a high-definition TV display,.

Mobile devices, however, are still a challenge because of the challenges of moving quality video over wireless networks.  3G wireless networks are generally designed on the assumption the people may want to download large quantities of data at high speeds to mobile devices, but are unlikely to upload much. This assumption works fine for watching a Netflix movie, but falls apart when you are streaming video in both directions.


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