Dane. Designer.

Old Blog

Thoughts on video and audio conferencing

In reply to an entry by Brian

“A long time ago it dawned on me that a computer needs a ringer like a telephone – completely seperate from the speakers, so you can use it for stuff like netmeeting and skype, knowing that it will actually make a phone-like noise on the other end of the line.”

“I guess the computer speaker could be used? I don’t know if it’s loud enough.”

I used video conferencing every day for 2 years for talking with Rikke (from Scotland to Denmark), and it soon occurred to me that the computer will never be, at least not in the current form, used for phoning by the average person. Or even by most geeks for that matter!

The ‘videophone’ has essentially been here for a long time, but nobody wants to sit down in front of a computer to use it. (Essentially it can be argued that you don’t want to sit down in front of a computer to browse the web, you just don’t know it yet…)

The alternatives are of course getting easier and better, AOL Instant Messenger">AIM and now also MSN Messenger have fairly good and easy to use video and audio features. But they still require substantial ‘training’ in comparison with a phone.

So really applying a ‘ringer’ to your computer to give in the same functionality as a phone is a bit backwards thinking. Rather the computer should be brought to fullfill the same function as a phone on the same terms as the phone. Partially doable with a laptop, but even that is still just a substitute.

For it to ever work properly you need a computer-phone which utilizes the Internet as if it was the phonegrid. It shouldn’t require any maintenance, but merely work at any given time. Pick up the phone and ‘dial Michael’ and shazaam. No more “Are you online? Is you webcam plugged in? I can’t hear you, can you hear me?! Sound is choppy, let’s try lowering the sound quality, say 4Hz?”. In my opinion it just isn’t a medium worth pursuing as anything other than a testbed for a proper hardware solution.

One can only hope that the ‘conferencing’ front has gained momentum with AIM, MSN Messenger and iChat on the move. Personally I’m still flabbergasted that this hasn’t been properly implemented in full yet. It’s at least 5 years late! And we’re still waiting for the first real step, a communications standard. Right now we’re merely heading into yet another, merely small-scale, browser-war.

Update: Slightly related and somewhat interesting story about the broadcasting of video using iChat.