Linked by Eugenia Loli on Mon 16th Aug 2010 06:41 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless I've seen it so many times in the movies and TV: a person wakes up in this futuristic world, walks by his kitchen, and a computerized voice is telling him that someone is calling him. But instead of picking up a receiver, the call is actually a video-call, and his TV is used for the conversation. If you put 2 and 2 together, this is not really that futuristic. Having a camera attached on your TV, and a VoIP SIP or Skype connection with it, is not mad science. So why don't we already have this on our TVs?
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Great for TV - impractical for real life
by Laurence on Mon 16th Aug 2010 09:28 UTC
Laurence
Member since:
2007-03-26

First of all, multiple protocols isn't really an issue as you can get numerous IM clients like Kopete and Pidgen that supports multiple platforms and runs multiple IM engines all under one app.
Granted you still then have to sign up to each service, but this isn't really an issue either as you're only going to sign up to the services which you already have friends, family or business connections with. So few people would need to sign up to every protocol anyway.

Now given that most laptops are sold with in built cameras and external webcams have been cheep enough to afford with pocket money for a good decade now and the majority of the west can already buffer good quality video streams (many of who can already watch glorious full HD straight off their internet connection), it becomes pretty clear that the problem isn't technological. We have the technology. We already know that the problem isn't fragmentation as users will just flock to whatever protocol their contacts are already on. So the problem must be personal....

Most people don't want to dress up, apply make up / shave and comb their hair just to answer the phone. In fact, a lot of people don't really like answering their phone as it is now as they find the interrupting nagging of device rude and intrusive. So having to constant look your best incase someone rings is a step much too far for these people (and I see myself sympathising with their opinion). This is perhaps why the biggest users of video chat tend to be around adults performing "adult games". An impersonal scene which is centred around dressing up (or rather down) to impress and then once the deed has been executed, you never have to speak to or accidentally bump into said person again. We see time and time again how video chat is turned into an adult sex toy, the most recent example being Chatroulette.

Another drawback for video chat is how it doesn't lend itself to multi-tasking. With a normal telephone call, you can be walking your kids to school, driving to work or performing any number of household chores. But add a video camera to the TV or desktop and you are stuck in one room in the house. Start a 3G video call and you can't have a hands free conversation whilst driving (though I'm not in favour of the more traditional voice calls while driving either) nor manage your hyperactive children on their walk to school. So recipients of the phone call are forced to stop whatever they were previously doing to engage the call. This is just impractical for the majority of us given our busy lives.

So while HD video calls makes perfect sense for sci-fi movies and TV shows, it's also a highly scripted and directed affair and the actors have an army of make-up artists at their disposal. Real life just doesn't translate like this.

That all said, there is hope for video chat. While my girlfriend spent a month in Germany as part of her university's exchange program, we kept in contact via skype as it was cheaper than traditional phone calls (ie free) and meant we could still see each other even when it was impossible to be in the same country (let alone town). But those were pre-arranged dates under exceptional circumstances.

Anyway, I've rambled on for long enough

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