The history and use of video conferencing in the technology age

Videoconferencing uses telecommunications of audio and video to bring people at different sites together for a meeting. This can be as simple as a conversation between two people in private offices (point-to-point) or involve several sites (multi-point) with more than one person in large rooms at different sites. Besides the audio and visual transmission of meeting activities, videoconferencing can be used to share documents, computer-displayed information, and whiteboards.

During the first manned space flights, NASA used two radiofrequency (UHForVHF) links, one in each direction. TV channels routinely use this kind of videoconferencing when reporting from distant locations, for instance. Then mobile links to satelites using specially equipped trucks became rather common.

Telemedicine, distance education, business meetings, and so on, particularly in long-distance applications. Attempts at using normal telephony networks to transmit slow-scan video, such as the first systems developed by AT&T, failed mostly due to the poor picture quality and the lack of efficient video compression techniques. The greater 1 MHz bandwidth and 6 Mbit/s bit rate of Picture phone in the 1970s also did not cause the service to prosper.

Finally, in the 1990s, IP (Internet Protocol) based videoconferencing became possible, and more efficient video compression technologies were developed, permitting desktop, or personal computer (PC)-based videoconferencing. In 1992 CU-SeeMe was developed at Cornell by Tim Dorcey et al., IVS was designed at INRIA, VTC arrived to the masses and free services, web plugins and software, such as Net Meeting, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Sidespeed , Skpe and others brought cheap, albeit low-quality, VTC.

The other components required for a VTC system include:

  • Video input : video camera or webcam
  • Video output: computer monitor, television or projector
  • Audio input: microphones
  • Audio output: usually loud speakers associated with the display device or telephone
  • Data transfer: analog or digital telephone network, LAN or Internet
Some observers argue that two outstanding issues are preventing videoconferencing from becoming a standard form of communication.

Eye Contact: It is known that eye contact plays a large role in conversational turn-taking, perceived attention and intent, and other aspects of group communication. While traditional telephone conversations give no eye contact cues, videoconferencing systems are arguably worse in that they provide an incorrect impression that the remote interlocutor is avoiding eye contact.

A second problem with videoconferencing is that one is on camera, with the video stream possibly even being recorded. The burden of presenting an acceptable on-screen appearance is not present in audio-only communication.

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