How video conferencing changed the way we interact

Since it has first surfaced, video conferencing has evolved and is quickly becoming a preferred method of communication.

By Marcos Franco, Staff Writer

Since it was first introduced in 1964, video conferencing services have continuously evolved over the years, quickly becoming the primary method of group gatherings used today.

“A pro for video conferencing is the ability to teach anywhere remotely,” said Valley College media arts professor Eric Swelstad. “Whether I’m here in LA or across the country, as I have been, I’m able to teach.”

Video conferencing is a form of virtual communication between two or more individuals using both audio and visual content to transmit information to one another in real time, regardless of their location. In 1964, AT&T released the picturephone, the first device to make video conferencing possible. The device allowed users to communicate via black and white video for no longer than 10 minutes at a time and required both viewers to sit still in order to receive a decent signal. Pricing was also expensive. A three-minute video call from New York City to Chicago would cost consumers $27 ($255 in modern day prices).

Despite the small screen and low quality resolution, the technology was largely innovative at the time. It was not until the development of broadband internet and the invention of the computer webcam for video conferencing to become a practical method of communication.

Although video conferencing has become increasingly popular within the last couple years, it has been a crucial part of technology for communication since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Business management, schooling and keeping in touch with loved ones have all transitioned to the remote environment. Some of the more popular services such as Zoom have experienced a surge in usage since late 2019.

“As of the end of December last year, the maximum number of daily meeting participants, both free and paid, conducted on Zoom was approximately 10 million,” said Eric S. Yuan, Zoom CEO. “In March this year, we reached more than 200 million daily meeting participants, both free and paid.”

Not only does video conferencing allow people to interact in large groups, modern day services also allow users to share their computer screen, record meetings and instant message one another among other features. Although the basic version of the software is enough to satisfy the needs of most users, Zoom also offers paid premium versions ranging in price from $15 per month for the pro version to $199 per month for the Business and Enterprise packages which include social media streaming, cloud recording and storage, as well as hosting up to five times the amount of participants.

With its effortless sign up, user friendly software and ability to stay safe while communicating, it is no wonder how video conferencing services have become a preferred method of communication today. Although these meetings for the most part are reliable and convenient, it does not come without its issues. In some of the latest trends, internet trolls are joining public conference calls and harassing participants. In more severe cases, they are using their webcam to display obscene images.

In late April, the Valley College Office of Student Life hosted a public zoom meeting in which a user shared illicit videos of children engaging in sexual acts. Not only are scenarios like these horrifying for those involved, but they also pose privacy and security problems for both the company and its users.

Before the unexpected spike in personal non-business user demand, Zoom was unaware of the possible risks of user misuse and is working to prevent it. The company has since gone on to hire experienced outside advisors such as Alex Stamos, the former chief security officer of Facebook, in hopes to combat this issue.

“There’s been discussion about Zoom’s encryption not being end-to-end, and that’s true,” said Stamos in an April article published by CNBC. “We’re working on some options in that area.”

Despite the pros and cons, conferencing companies have been successful in the growth and development of their services. As a software that was originally intended for business usage, Zoom has tackled the unexpected spike in demand, and continues to accommodate the needs of its users. Today, video conferencing has changed the way we communicate, learn and work and will continue to be a relevant method of communication for the foreseeable future.