The concept of communicating across the Internet in a high-definition stream through a camera that fits roughly in the palm of your hand was unfathomable to those using computers during the 80s. Only a little more than a decade later, in 1994, the QuickCam appeared, and we started making all sorts of guesses at what this meant for the future. Video conferencing began to take root in the 21st century and has seen a healthy amount of growth due to the innumerable ways in which it’s been proven to be a useful tool for both consumers and businesses. As it became an established technology in the early 2010s, we now wonder what the future wI’ll bring.
What Are the Trends?
Video conferencing has come a long way from the days when software used to come across hitches precisely at the most inopportune moments. This doesn’t mean that we’re done innovating, though.
If you want to see what kind of future consumers can expect with video conferencing, we need to look at top innovators who are currently selling this service to businesses. Stability has increased, and while bandwidth has been getting cheaper, that hasn’t stopped developers from attempting to minimize the impact of their streams for low-bandwidth situations.
Zoom’s video meetings software is an example of how a company can take this to an extreme and create something that adapts to different bandwidth situations, providing high-resolution video even when the stream capacity drops to 600 kbps.
Other commercial video meeting suppliers focus more on a new type of video conferencing format. While most people are used to dynamic multi-person conferences (or one-on-one meetings) where everyone can speak, there are some situations that call for a presenter-audience dynamic.
The advent of the webinar has made it possible for one or more presenters to deliver a video stream to audiences numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. Companies like ClickMeeting have a sharp focus on making webinars capable of delivering a live video stream to an audience of up to a thousand people.
What’s in Store for the Future?
The current go-to platforms for consumers are free products such as Skype and Google Hangouts. When compared to their commercial counterparts, they leave much to be desired. But as I’ve said before, it’s only a matter of time before they incorporate more refined features for their users. Paid products often innovate faster because they have to justify their asking price. They need to provide something more than the free alternatives (e.g. advanced screen sharing, multi-channel communication, dial-in, and professional-quality recording).
The future of video conferencing is multi-faceted. We can expect a more crisp image quality (which is helped immensely by the continually growing global average broadband speed) and an increase in “room” capacity. The standard capacity in the corporate world back in 2008 was about 10-15 people. Since then new products began cropping up with 100-person capacities. Consumer products in 2015 had an average capacity of ten people in one meeting. Expect that to continue to increase!
Video will continue to grow in popularity as a means of communication as time goes on due to its utility and increasing ease of use. As this happens we will observe changes that will accommodate those trends in the form of refining the user experience and meeting quality. While there are many enthusiasts and optimists out there saying that video will begin replacing phone conversations, I agree with Stephen Lawson’s implicit conclusion that this won’t be happening any time soon. However, I have no doubt that this form of communication will continue to infiltrate our daily lives in a much bigger way as time passes.
Is video conferencing already a large part of your life? Tell us your story in a comment below.