A whole new world on camera

A whole new world on camera

One aspect of today’s communications technology that I’m really enjoying is video. I have always liked to chat on the phone, but services like Skype, Messenger and Tokbox have added an extra dimension.

Okay, maybe not every call is worthy of a video connection. Bad hair days aside, there are definitely times I am not in the mood for a face-to-face conversation. But when it is friends or family, or a time when a more personal touch is necessary, you just can’t beat seeing the person in the flesh.

The concept has opened up a whole world of possibilities. My mum saw my newborn daughter on a video call (several calls, in fact) before catching up with her in person. My brother is the other side of the world, so I enjoy ‘seeing’ him when I can.

The other week, I interviewed someone in Singapore from the comfort of my desk. The telephone would have been okay. But being able to look her in the eye meant I could gauge her physical reactions, not just simply listen to the words. I am sure I got more out of the conversation than I would have without the video.

Last year, I recall doing a story on children at Kelvin Road School (in Auckland) who got to communicate with astronaut Mark Polansky aboard space shuttle Endeavour. Beforehand, he asked people to submit questions to the crew. The students made videos of questions they wanted to ask. Two were chosen and played, and answered on NASA TV. It wasn’t quite live communication, but pretty neat all the same – and now on YouTube for everyone to see (

Just think about it for a moment. Asking questions of astronauts actually in orbit around the Earth – can you imagine the fun the kids had with that? The best I can remember is writing a letter to our local politician. It is not quite the same. And I am not sure we even got a reply!

Now, the reason this all came to mind was due to something that happened a couple of days ago. During the school holidays there is an event called ULearn, which is an ICT conference for teachers. It is popular, too. Nearly 2000 turned up this year in Christchurch to enjoy the exhibition, presentations and workshops that take place over four days. It is quite impressive.

Anyhow, late on the Wednesday afternoon, Asnet Technologies hosted the drinks and nibbles. Nothing unusual in that, a few nuts and bubbles, and the chance to schmooze. What caught my eye was the ‘entertainment’.

Asnet is a reseller for Polycom, which, as you probably know, makes videoconferencing equipment. To not only show the kit in action, but also its versatility and possibilities, the company used it to provide the background music. What they did was set up a link with musicians who played from a remote location. And it wasn’t just a cheap stunt broadcasting from next door. They were playing in Sydney; we were listening (and watching) in Christchurch.

Well done, guys. It was a practical demonstration that actually grabbed people’s interest – and the music wasn’t bad, either.

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