Wednesday, 15 December 2010

video conference

Impact on the general public High speed Internet connectivity has become more widely available at a reasonable cost and the cost of video capture and display technology has decreased. Consequently, personal videoconferencing systems based on a webcam, personal computer system, software compression and broadband Internet connectivity have become affordable to the general public. Also, the hardware used for this technology has continued to improve in quality, and prices have dropped dramatically. The availability of freeware (often as part of chat  has made software based videoconferencing accessible to many.
For over a century, have envisioned a future where telephone conversations will take place as actual face-to-face encounters with video as well as audio. Sometimes it is simply not possible or practical to have face-to-face meetings with two or more people. Sometimes a telephone conversation or conference call is adequate. Other times, an  exchanges are adequate. However, videoconferencing adds another possible alternative, and can be considered when:
  • a live conversation is needed;
  • visual information is an important component of the conversation;
  • the parties of the conversation can't physically come to the same location; or
  • the expense or time of travel is a consideration.
Deaf, hard-of-hearing and mute individuals have a particular interest in the development of affordable high-quality videoconferencing as a means of communicating with each other in sign language. Unlike Video Relay Service, which is intended to support communication between a caller using sign language and another party using spoken language, videoconferencing can be used between two signers.
Mass adoption and use of videoconferencing is still relatively low, with the following often claimed as causes:

  • Complexity of systems. Most users are not technical and want a simple interface. In hardware systems an unplugged cord or a flat battery in a remote control is seen as failure, contributing to perceived unreliability which drives users back to traditional meetings. Successful systems are backed by support teams who can pro-actively support and provide fast assistance when required.
  • Perceived lack of interoperability: not all systems can readily interconnect, for example ISDN and IP systems require a gateway. Popular software solutions cannot easily connect to hardware systems. Some systems use different standards, features and qualities which can require additional configuration when connecting to dis-similar systems.
  • Bandwidth and quality of service: In some countries it is difficult or expensive to get a high quality connection that is fast enough for good-quality video conferencing. Technologies such as ADSL have limited upload speeds and cannot upload and download simultaneously at full speed. As Internet speeds increase higher quality and high definition video conferencing will become more readily available.
  • Expense of commercial systems - a well designed system requires a specially designed room and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fit out the room with codecs, integration equipment and furniture.
  • Participants being self-conscious about being on camera, especially new users and older generations.
  • Lack of eye contact (as mentioned in Problems)
For these reasons many hardware systems are often used for internal corporate use only, as they are less likely to run into problems and lose a sale. An alternative is companies that hire out videoconferencing equipped meeting rooms in cities around the world. Customers simply book the rooms and turn up for the meeting - everything else is arranged and support is readily available if anything should go wrong.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A videoconference or video conference (also known as a video teleconference) is a set of interactive telecommunication technologies which allow two or more locations to interact via two-way video and audio transmissions simultaneously. It has also been called 'visual collaboration' and is a type of groupware. Videoconferencing differs from videophone calls in that it's designed to serve a conference rather than individuals. It is an intermediate form of video telephony, first deployed commercially by AT&T during the early 1970s using their Picture phone technology.

The core technology used in a videoconferencing system is digital compression of audio and video streams in real time. The hardware or software that performs compression is called a codec (coder/decoder). Compression rates of up to 1:500 can be achieved. The resulting digital stream of 1s and 0s is subdivided into labeled packets, which are then transmitted through a digital network of some kind (usually ISDN or IP). The use of audio modems in the transmission line allow for the use of POTS, or the Plain Old Telephone System, in some low-speed applications, such as video telephony, because they convert the digital pulses to/from analog waves in the audio spectrum range.
The other components required for a videoconferencing system include:
Video input : video camera or webcam
Video output: computer monitor , television or projector
Audio input: microphones, CD/DVD player, cassette player, or any other source of Pre Amp audio outlet.
Audio output: usually loudspeakers associated with the display device or telephone
Data transfer: analog or digital telephone network, LAN or Internet

Some observer argue that two outstanding issues are preventing videoconferencing from becoming a standard form of communication, despite the ubiquity of videoconferencing-capable systems. These issues are:
1. 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. Telepresence systems have cameras located in the screens that reduce the amount of parallax observed by the users. This issue is also being addressed through research that generates a synthetic image with eye contact using stereo reconstruction.
Bell Communications Research owns a patent for eye-to-eye video conferencing using rear projection screens with a camera behind it. This technique eliminates the need for special cameras or image processing.
2. Appearance Consciousness: A second problem with videoconferencing is being 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. Early studies by Alphonse Chapin’s found that the addition of video actually impaired communication, possibly because of the consciousness of being on camera.
3. Signal latency: The information transport of digital signals in many steps needs time. In a telecommunicated conversation an increased latency, larger than about 150-300ms, becomes noticeable and soon unnatural and distracting. Therefore next to a stable large bandwidth, a small total round-trip time is another major technical requirement for the communication channel for interactive videoconferencing. (see ping time)
The issue of eye-contact may be solved with advancing technology, and presumably the issue of appearance consciousness will fade as people become accustomed to videoconferencing.