Monday, December 13, 2010

Video Chat

The other night watching Fringe, I noticed a horribly awkward product placement for Sprint video chat on their smart phone.  In the scene, Peter receives a call from Astrid, and the shot cuts to an over-the-shoulder view of the Sprint phone with a live image of Astrid.  What I found awkward is how stiff and wooden both of the actors were on this short phone call.  I think it illustrates the problem with this new video chat.

Fans of sci-fi have long been familiar with the promise of video chat.  All of the best sci-fi shows have for decades been showing us video-phone calls between cast members.  It looked like the wave of the future, a great day when we would be able to have a real, face-face conversation with someone at a distance. 

Yet, this technology has now been around for years.  Skype and other platforms are not new.  Anyone with high speed internet and a web cam have been able to have these face to face conversations for some time now.  But, this technology has not caught on in a big way.  I know of almost no one who really wants to have a video chat with anyone on a regular basis.  I have used Skype just a few times,  never for a real conversation.  I have had one Skype interview for a school.  I have Skyped a few people just to see how it worked.  My most ingenious use of Skype was to broadcast a Baylor basketball game to a friend living overseas.

I just don't think the technology is really going to catch on, and the reason is that it does not fulfill a need, at least not for most phone conversations.  Most people, when they make a phone call have no real desire to be "face to face."  In fact, they would rather not.  People like to multitask while on the phone.  They like to have the conversation, but they don't want the other person seeing what they are doing.  They might be walking around the house straightening up.  They might be at their desk shuffling papers, clicking websites, jotting down notes, etc.  They might be driving.  All things that cannot be done in a face to face conversation.  As the scene from Fringe made clear, when engaging in video chat, one stops all action and sits in front of a screen.  We have gotten used to having phone conversations while doing other stuff, and I think most phone conversations w/video would actually hinder the phone lifestyle we have become accustomed to.

So, is the capability of video chat going to be a purchasing factor on my next phone?  No Way, i'll take the audio-talk only function please.  What about you?  Do you see yourself engaging in video chat on a regular basis now that it has come to mobile devices?


  1. Personally, I only use Skype or iChat when my parents want to see my face (they find the technology fascinating). However, I've noticed that a lot of other students use Skype on a regular basis. In fact, A person in front of my in my business class was on Skype during class. He wasn't taking to the other person, they were just looking at each other while they used the instant message feature on Skype. I found it rather odd. I've even experienced people Skyping in the library. Now that phones are starting to have this feature, I feel that annoying cell phone talkers will become annoying face-to-face chat talkers. Personally I don't see the need for face-to-face chat on a phone, but I can see it becoming a highly obnoxious feature.

  2. Funny as it sounds, I enjoy using skype. Since I attend a different school from some of my friends, I find that skype is a more personal way to catch up with them. I never get to see their face on a daily basis & this is a chance at it. This is also beneficial for people who have family that live overseas. Of course this technology has not been highly demanded, the luxury of an iphone is just that...a luxury. If the phone was offered to more networks then maybe more people would enjoy the new video chat. I am aware that face to face chat may be awkward, but everyone has different personalities.

    Amber Calderon

  3. I feel that the technology is starting to catch on more with the younger age groups. Just like when the internet started to become a large part of society, the older age group found it unnecessary because they could get things done their way and it worked fine. But now that this technology is coming out, the younger adults and even kids are being presented with this technology more. So they are growing up with being able to talk to friends and family face to face. I have used skype several times to talk to my parents and even show them school work that I have been working on. If I wanted to show them something I would hang up the phone, take a picture of it and send it to them, wait for them to get it and then call them back. But now I can just say get on skype and I'll show you. I have even helped my brother who goes to Texas Tech with his homework using the screen sharing feature. There are alot of uses for face to face communication that is being found by the younger market only because this is the technology they are being pushed towards. Technology is always changing and the demand for new features will surely make their way into the market.