Video calling and conferencing is still all the rage. People can now video call from PCs, mobile phones, and tablets. But aside from seeing your grandmother’s or business partner's face and having a visual reconnection, video calling is not much more useful when compared with voice calling. So why are technology companies focusing so much of their time and energy on it? Examples of this are abound: Cisco deploying telepresence to consumers; Apple and other device makers offering front facing cameras on iPhones and iPads in addition to back facing ones; Microsoft purchasing Skype for $8 billion; Google TV coming bundled with a high end Logitech camera for video conferencing, and many more.
The reason is that there’s a lot more you can do with video than initially meets the eye. The cameras attached to many of today’s devices have become a conduit for capturing a wealth of information, emotion, and even control directives. This data can be easier for users to input and contain much more graphically rich information that helps a system decide what to do. Natural human body language like facial expressions, eye and hand movements, as well as background scenery suddenly become valuable data, and, when used properly and creatively, these insights can be used to clear up miscommunications in business meetings, add fun and playfulness to video chats, and monitor health and security of loved ones.
Technology wise, more companies are releasing video innovations that go beyond the simple video call. These services perform image and gesture recognition, movement detection, and video augmentation. For example, developers can use technologies such as Zugara’s ZugSTAR to craft augmented reality experiences over a video call like facial and object recognition and video annotations. They can also use Microsoft’s new Kinect SDK to develop hand and body gesture recognitions, replacing traditional input mechanisms such as the mouse, keyboard, and remote control.
The results of these innovations are rich video conversations that are as natural as phone conversations. During a conversation two people can video chat and at the same time share photos and try on clothes. In a business meeting the presenter can flip through PowerPoint slides with swipe gestures, visually identify participants on the other side of a meeting by pointing at them, and beam them their business card by imitating a throw gesture. In a service call, a car technician can zoom in on a customer’s car damage and let image recognition technology identify parts, suspected damage, and repair options. In a remote doctor consultation, a patient can indicate where they are experiencing pain simply by pointing it out on their body and having the appropriate body part highlight.
These augmented and immersive video conferences are not far off, and some are already in use for social, business, and medical interactions. The technology is available to developers today so it just takes someone ambitious to go and run with it. Have you developed or experienced any of these innovations? Share your experiences below; we’d love to hear from you.
I am a Product Manager at Orange Silicon Valley and the creative force behind Sens.ly. I have a passion for creating game-changing products and I created one of the first enterprise voice portals, a speech-based outbound IVR platform and a location-based social network. I also holds several provisional patents in the areas of healthcare, security, telecommunications and augmented reality.