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The Past, Present, and Future of Video Telecommunication or, The 3% Solution. Dave Lindbergh IMTC Fall Forum November 2008. Contents. Hooke Labs & how we use video Past How we got to this point Present Successful niches for video Why no mass-market adoption of video? False reasons

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the past present and future of video telecommunication or the 3 solution

The Past, Present, and Future of Video Telecommunicationor,The 3% Solution

Dave Lindbergh

IMTC Fall Forum

November 2008

  • Hooke Labs & how we use video
  • Past
    • How we got to this point
  • Present
    • Successful niches for video
    • Why no mass-market adoption of video?
    • False reasons
    • User expectations  Correct reasons (my opinion)
  • Future
    • How to succeed: The 3% Solution
  • Video telecom is in < 1% of conference rooms
    • ~ 0% of homes
  • Mass acceptance has never occurred
    • Despite huge consumer enthusiasm for video
    • Despite good solutions to traditional problems
  • Because the quality of experience falls short
    • The “sense of being there” is disappointing
  • This will change
    • Telepresence market is the lever
    • Gradual improvements will lead to the mass-market
hooke laboratories
Hooke Laboratories
  • Start-up biotech CRO & manufacturer
  • Typical CRO contract $5000 to $50,000
  • Customers all over the world
    • USA, Canada
    • Europe
    • Asia
    • South America
hooke is well equipped for video
Hooke is well-equipped for video
  • Co-founder w/14 years in video conferencing
  • Broadband Internet connection
  • Skype + webcams
  • Polycom VSX 7000 (H.323, SIP, H.320)
how often does hooke use video
How often does Hooke use video?
  • Never
    • Not once
  • Why not? And what can be done about that?
    • That is what this talk is about
video telephony system
Video telephony system
  • 18 frames/second
  • Progressive scan
  • Plasma display
  • Pixel aspect ratio 3:2
  • Image quality described as “excellent”
  • End-to-end latency 1 millisecond (great!)
new york washington dc
New York – Washington DC

Walter Gifford Herbert Hoover

President, AT&T US Sec’y of Commerce

New York Washington DC

television telephone vision
“Television” = Telephone + Vision
  • 50x50 pixel display, neon bulbs
  • Camera: Arc lamp beam, mechanical scanning
  • Optional projection to 2x3 feet
    • But “results were not so good”

Edna Mae Horner


Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company

at t picturephone
AT&T Picturephone

1957 “Experimental Model”

at t was very serious
AT&T was very serious
  • Plenty of smart business people!


at t was not alone
AT&T was not alone

Lots of investment, market research, usability studies…

NTT, 1968 Philips, 1974

at t quietly gave up in the early 1970s
AT&T quietly gave up in the early 1970s
  • Did it “cost too much”?
1980s still image picture phones
1980s – Still image picture phones
  • Mid-1980s: Japanese consumer electronic firms introduced still-image picture phones
    • Used existing regular analog phone line
    • POTS modem
    • ~ 5 seconds to send 1 black & white frame
    • No audio during picture transmission
    • ~$200 each
  • Very few takers
1992 at t videophone 2500
1992 – AT&T Videophone 2500
  • “Predicting that 10 years from now video phones will be as popular as cordless phones and fax machines, last week AT&T introduced the first full-color motion video phone that operates over regular phone lines…”
    • Newsweek, January 20, 1992
  • 10 frames/second, $1500
  • Marconi, others, had similar products
many more videophones since then
Many more videophones since then
  • They all worked
  • Their makers all expected commercial success
  • And why not?
    • Consumers are consistently excited at the idea of video telecommunication

Siemens T-View (H.320 ISDN) ~ 1997

maybe the technology wasn t ready
Maybe the technology wasn’t ready
  • Too expensive
  • Poor video quality
  • Not enough bandwidth
  • Maybe the time is finally right
    • Maybe your company is thinking about introducing a video phone
    • Maybe you think now is the time
  • If so…
  • Video phones are in every home and every office
  • Well, no
  • Why not???
people want video communication
People want video communication
  • Witness all the attempts
  • Just talk to potential users – lots of excitement
  • But they don’t buy or use video when offered
    • Except for narrow niche applications
  • For some reason people are disappointed
    • We need to understand why before we can fix this
a successful but small industry
A successful, but small, industry
  • Video conferencing
    • ~$2B/year (generously)
    • Doesn’t seem to be growing much
  • Telepresence
    • ~$100M/year(?), growing fast
    • Expense limits market size

(Wainhouse says < $1B)

video telecommunication today
Video telecommunication today
  • Video conferencing offered since mid-1980s
    • More than 20 years
  • More successful than video phones
  • Why?
    • High-value application
    • Relatively big picture, high resolution
    • Less restriction on where people are in the frame
    • More “like being there” than video phones
    • At work – people are paid to use it
  • But…
After 20+ years, video is in < 1% of conference rooms

Lots of room for growth 

Similar problems as stopped video telephony 


October 14, 2008

challenges today are these the problem
Challenges today – are these the problem?
  • Connectivity issues
    • Incompatible protocols & standards
    • NATs and firewalls
    • Network fragmentation
      • IP, ISDN, POTS, 3G, 4G…
    • No public/automatic gateways and bridges
  • Too much latency
    • And lots of denial about it; doesn’t help
videophones didn t have connectivity problems mostly
Videophones didn’t have connectivity problems (mostly)
  • Early videophones solved connectivity
    • Offered & operated by carriers
    • Simple analog devices
  • Many videophones were utterly reliable
    • POTS models used voice network (w/modems)
  • Reliability was not the problem
  • Connectivity was not the problem
why no mass adoption is it cost
Why no mass adoption – is it cost?
  • AT&T spent $billions – lots of market research
    • Best and brightest people in the world
    • They were sure it would sell
  • Many free services: PC + $15 webcam
    • Skype, AIM, Yahoo, MS Messenger, NetMeeting…
  • Many video phones were/are offered by carriers with subsidies
    • Phones under $300 common
    • Same usage fees as voice calls
  • Probably not cost
is it ease of use
Is it ease of use?
  • AT&T Picturephone was a telephone
    • Pick up phone, dial number
  • Most videophones are equally easy to use
  • Probably not ease of use
is it video quality latency
Is it video quality? Latency?
  • Many products have very good video quality
    • Even bad pictures look good on small displays
    • 1960s analog phones had good quality
  • Modern VC systems have excellent video quality, large displays, but still haven’t enjoyed mass adoption
  • Phones of the 1960s and 1970s were analog
    • No extra latency
  • Probably not these, either
    • All these things are very important – necessary
    • But they don’t seem to be sufficient
the mass adoption barrier
The mass adoption barrier
  • Video conferencing is a successful niche
    • But very far from mass adoption (< 1%)
  • Video telephony hasn’t succeeded yet
    • Yet, clearly there is a market desire!
  • Current issues do not explain past failures
    • Standards, connectivity were solved for videophones
    • Latency was not a problem in the analog world
  • Then what is required for success?
    • Why have users not yet embraced video telephony?
fiction creates expectations
Fiction creates expectations

Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1926)

fiction reflects expectations
Fiction reflects expectations
  • Where are the cameras?
  • This is impossible with today’s video
  • But it is expected

The Jetsons (Hanna-Barbera, 1962)

The Jetsons (Hanna-Barbera, 1962)

perfect framing perfect lighting
Perfect framing, perfect lighting

Star Trek (Paramount, 1967)

nobody is nervous on camera
Nobody is nervous “on camera”
  • Actors look straight into the camera
  • Professional cinematography / videography
  • Multiple camera positions & zooms
  • Directors choose the best shots

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

what will it take for mass adoption
What will it take for mass adoption?
  • More than just:
    • Cost
    • Latency
    • Reliability
    • Connectivity
    • Resolution
    • Picture size
    • Ease of use
  • These are all necessary, but not sufficient
quality of experience
Quality of Experience
  • The “sense of being there” is disappointing
    • At least, weaker than people expect & want
  • VC is not enough like being in the same place
    • Eye contact
    • Peripheral vision
    • Depth perception
    • Awareness of framing
    • Perceived distance to other people
    • Ability to interrupt
    • Certainly other things, too
video is much harder than it seems
Video is much harder than it seems
  • Video is not “just another channel”
    • Text, audio, video, right? Wrong.
  • Far-end can’t tell where you put the keyboard
  • Microphone location is not very important
  • The camera location matters
    • Each person has a different viewpoint
    • People direct their gaze at each other
    • People are aware when others look at them
    • Viewpoints matter
george jetson mr spacely
George Jetson & Mr. Spacely
  • Study this image
  • It illustrates a lot about what consumers expect from video telecommunication
george jetson mr spacely53
George Jetson & Mr. Spacely
  • Mr. Spacely is much larger than Jetson
  • That is because Mr. Spacely is the boss
george jetson mr spacely54
George Jetson & Mr. Spacely
  • Jetson is not thinkingabout whether he’s still in the frame
  • Even though he’s jumped out of his seat
george jetson mr spacely55
George Jetson & Mr. Spacely
  • Mr. Spacely appears very close to Jetson
    • A confrontational distance
    • Not at the opposite end of a room
  • This is why he’s jumped out of his seat
george jetson mr spacely56
George Jetson & Mr. Spacely
  • Mr. Spacely’s image is above Jetson
  • This, also, is because Spacely is the boss
george jetson mr spacely57
George Jetson & Mr. Spacely
  • We expect that Spacely has peripheral vision
    • Spacely could tellif we (the viewer) were in the room
  • We feel Spacely could look at us if he wanted to
george jetson mr spacely58
George Jetson & Mr. Spacely
  • We can tell who Mr. Spacely is looking at
  • Jetson and Spacely have eye contact
george jetson mr spacely59
George Jetson & Mr. Spacely
  • But we, the viewer, do not have eye contact with either of them
  • Because they are looking at each other, not us
  • If we were in the room, this would feel natural
george jetson mr spacely60
George Jetson & Mr. Spacely
  • The artist knows all this without being told
  • But video engineers do not
video viewpoints perspectives
Video viewpoints & perspectives
  • Image size matters
  • Display distance matters
    • These depend on each other
    • And on type of conversation
  • Camera height matters
    • Face above camera = Dominant
      • like Mr. Spacely
      • Judges and kings sit up high
  • There is no single “right” answer
    • People can either stand or sit
    • Multiple viewers in different positions

1984 (Apple Computer, 1984)

V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2006)

  • Mother (Albert Brooks, 1996)
    • Rob Morrow and Debbie Reynolds on videophone
  • In film & TV, directors choose the right shot
    • And change shots
    • To focus attention on what is important
  • Consciousness of framing can be distracting
  • Loose enough for freedom of movement
  • Enough detail & size to see faces clearly
    • Difficult to achieve both at the same time
    • Main achievement of today’s “telepresence” systems
perceived interpersonal distance
Perceived interpersonal distance
  • Critical for natural-feeling conversation
  • Controlled by size and distance of image
  • “Right” distance varies by type of conversation
    • Intimate, professional, adversarial, etc.
    • Some cultural dependence
more stuff
More stuff
  • Peripheral vision
    • Who is there
    • Who is looking at us
    • Who is paying attention
    • Who is trying to interrupt
  • Side conversations
  • Depth perception
    • Focus
    • Parallax
why is this so complicated
Why is this so complicated?
  • Voice telephony doesn’t have these problems
    • So why does adding video make things worse?
  • Because people are evolved to talk in the dark
    • This is why using the telephone feels natural
  • Because video is not “just another channel”
    • But that’s how engineers usually think about it
    • It’s something very different
  • The visual communications experience is expected to feel more natural and intuitive
what the market really wants telepresence
What the market really wants:Telepresence
  • The real thing – “like being there”
  • Today’s telepresence is a big improvement
    • Picture size and quality are clearly sufficient
    • Peripheral vision & framing are solved
    • High expense limits market size
  • Mass acceptance requires high Quality of Experienceat an affordable cost
  • Under 1% of the potential market is served now
    • Even small improvements can make a big difference
    • Start by getting to 3%
telepresence innovation opportunity
Telepresence = Innovation Opportunity
  • Telepresence market is not as cost sensitive
    • But very interested in real improvements
    • Tech will trickle down to lower-cost systems later
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect – just a little better
    • Remember, 3% is the goal (!)
  • How to get there? Prototype many ideas
    • Tinker, experiment … try out lots of ideas
    • We all think our untested ideas will work!
    • Yet most new ideas fail
    • So build them & test them – cheaply
    • Prototypes, not products
products vs prototypes

Usable by anyone



Cheap in volume

Automated with software


Usable by builders only



Expensive (build just 2)

Run manually by people

Products vs. Prototypes



  • Take risks, but ones you can afford – prototypes
    • Most new ideas are no good
    • If it’s not risky, it’s not innovation
example cnn hologram 2008 11 04
Example – CNN “hologram”, 2008-11-04
  • Not really a hologram
  • I don’t claim this is practical
  • Shows only that more is possible than we are accustomed to


  • Maybe better not to ask how it works
    • Use it as an inspiration – how can you make it work?
parting advice
Try something new

Seek improvement



Use off-the-shelf tech

Listen to end-users

Lead the market

Focus on un-served 99%

Repeat past failures

Despair at imperfection


Commit to untried ideas

Push existing envelope

Listen to customers

Follow the competition

Focus on existing 1%

Parting advice



  • Someone will get there & collect the pot of gold
    • Why not you?