Universal Videoconferencing

While Fred Wilson has his review of his Google Phone up already, I’m more intrigued with all the pre-CES announcements.  I’ll be walking the floor on Thursday soaking it all in and I’m pretty excited this year based on all the chatter.  One thing that has me particularly stoked is what I’m going to call “universal videoconferencing.”

I saw my first “videophone” around 30 years ago.  It sucked but the idea was magical (and still is).  Like my personal jetpack, I’ve been waiting patiently for it.  Very patiently.  For 30 years.

I think 2010 is the year it finally happens.  Engadget has a review of Skype HD (720p) and videocalling from PCs or Internet connected LG & Panasonic HDTVs (damnit – I knew I shouldn’t have bought that new Samsung.)  720p is plenty for me on my 30” computer monitor or my 50” TV.  With Skype (I’m bradfeld btw) the video / audio layer is free and broadly compatible (no more fighting with specialized hardware). 

I’ve been doing low-res Skype videoconferencing for a while and now chat with my dad a few times a week.  I finally got Amy using it and while she’s in Keystone and I’m in Boulder it’s almost like we are together (without the smell-a-vision).  But the video quality is mediocre and it still feels limited to being in front of a computer to use.

Now, put it on a TV in your living room.  In HD.  On a 50” screen.  The picture in the NY Times article A Venture Integrating Skype Into the Family Room is perfect. 

The only thing wrong here is the remote control.  There is no good reason why the 50” screen with the video camera built in can’t do simple gesture recognition to “answer”, “volume up”, “volume down”, and “hang up.”  That’s next.

One of my goals in 2010 is to get HD videoconferencing set up across all of the places I live and work.  My 30” screens are a good start.  And – with some of the announcements coming (and stuff I expect to see at CES) I’m optimistic that I might be able to get this working with standard equipment and Skype this year.

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  • Video Skype on a TV is pretty cool. I wish there were more good (and inexpensive) options for multi-party video conferencing (on TVs or computers).

    Speaking of video phones – we can't be more than a year or two away from video calls on mobile phones. The Knocking app on the iPhone shows that we're almost there now.

  • Brad – totally agree with your prediction. Cisco is trying to do the same thing in consumer with their Telepresence system (it would integrate into Scientific Atlanta boxes – some of their execs use a similar solution now) but I think Skype will beat them to the punch since its cheap (not sure if HD VTC will be free) and idiot proof. Also, excited to see what cell phones are going to really do in this space too – verizon announced this concept vphone before CES – http://bit.ly/8AWOSM I'm pumped for the show too!

  • I think CES will be really interesting this year as well. The challenge is always figuring out where the really good stuff is amidst all the mass of companies and people. I'd love to hear how you approach it. I'll be there the same day as you. One of the advantages of living in Las Vegas.

  • I just put my running shoes on and give myself up to the gods of CES.  I’m an immersive tinkerer, so I just wander and see what jumps out at me.

  • I left my hometown about three years ago and videoconferencing with my parents is great. I connect the 30" TV to my computer and put Skype full screen on it with the camera on top. We literally have dinner together from time to time and we spent Christmas and New Years celebrating together in this fashion. They put a computer with a camera in one end of the table and I do the same on this side.

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