True video conferencing has been with us since the 1970s when AT&T first developed their video telephone technology. However, the possibility of interconnecting studios and locations had been around since the first development of television when two sites could be connected using close circuit cameras linked by a coaxial cable or radio.
Systems were in existence in Berlin in the 1930s to enable the Post Office to link its various sites, and NASA space missions in the 1960s were linked by VHF and UHF communications. It was also common for remote, live television reports to be made using bulky transmission trucks to enable video conferencing.
The early video conferencing systems used existing telephone technology and were slow, producing poor quality images and they were also very expensive. They required special conferencing rooms to be constructed that could be used for video links, these needed bulky cameras and special sound equipment to function properly.
It was only in the 1980s that the introduction of ISDN and digital transmission made true video conferencing a realistic, viable proposition. Even then the equipment was still slow and expensive. With frame rates still running at around 15 frames per second, making pictures jittery and blurred. The last developments in the 1980s ensured that smaller and faster boards were designed that could fit into the CPU of a desktop computer.
Real headway was made in the 1990s when internet protocol and video compressing made video conferencing more widely available. When systems such as Skype came online in 2003 it brought the idea of video conferencing to the attention of the general public, this opened the way for a wider acceptance of this type of communication.
Today’s high definition video conferencing systems mean that television quality production and perfect sound is possible at an affordable cost for most people. This increase in speed, quality and the reduction in size and cost have opened up the market completely. It is no longer the privilege of the boardroom but keeps families together, even when they live apart and enables long distance teaching and medical procedures to take place throughout the world.
Nowadays technology such as Vidyo are fully integrated into desktop computers and can run using off the shelf peripherals such as speakers, webcams and microphones bought on the high street. The architecture behind the system also means that even when using your desktop computer you can achieve HD video calls as easily in your own home as you can in a high-tech office.