Videoconferencing: The Elusive Business Application

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Although it was 50 years ago that AT&T introduced the Picturephone at the World’s Fair, the company is still striving to “encourage the adoption of videoconferencing” at major corporations today. There has just not been a significant cultural shift in the business community to making deals without shaking hands in person. Yet, there are also very practical considerations in videoconferencing providing an inadequate sense of being in the room, and not allowing for a close consideration of body language to assess the impact of a presentation.

While webinars have undoubtedly reduced the amount of traveling substantially in prequalifying sales prospects in offering graphical video displays in communications, there is no real need to have a live picture of the people in the conversation. So, videoconferencing is partly about using a solution in which there is not a problem. Also, somewhat ironically, technological development has resulted in the virtualization of the office worldwide, and video would invade the space of people in not necessarily attractive locations or they may be wearing inappropriate clothing.

It remains to be seen whether higher resolution levels by incorporating 4K video will make a big difference. Clearly, it will facilitate adequate examination of patients in telemedicine applications, but it could also have an impact on a huge, wall-size screen in a boardroom in which it allows for the appearance of sitting across the table of people – although they may be at various sites. In fact, it has been demonstrated that sound is even a more important element in making videoconferencing feel real in sufficiently separating the voice signals and sending them to multiple speakers – resulting in people actually moving their heads to the left or to the right depending on who happens to be talking. (The use of Dolby Digital 5.1 should provide that effect.)

Of course, running against that trend is again, the point that there has been movement away from fixed offices with executives scattered all over the place, and fewer opportunities for the gathering of individuals in that way. There is also a widespread discomfort level by many people just in being in front of a camera – and only a small minority is especially photogenic.

Obviously, another factor going against videoconferencing is the inability to multitask, when one turns on the camera.

[written by Mark Lutkowitz]