It wasn't until my mother had a grandson that she really began to get into video chat. We had used Skype occasionally when I needed to view her computer screen to troubleshoot something, but when the opportunity arose for her to"see" my son despite living 200 miles away, Skype went from being a convenience to a necessity.
For his part, my son seems to see little difference between Grandma on the computer and Grandma in person. My guess is this has more to do with him not having the many years of face-to-face interaction with human beings we adults have had, which means he doesn't care in the slightest how awkward the whole thing actually is.
I refer, of course, to the fact that while video chat has definitely gone mainstream thanks to services such as Skype, Apple's FaceTime and Google Talk, the technology still is in its infancy. Jittery, pixilated calls, awkward pauses because of the lag, audio problems ("I can hear you, but can you hear me?") -- you name it, I've experienced it.
In theory, most people with a broadband connection should have enough juice for a quality video call. (Skype's recommended HD video calling bandwidth recommended download speed is 1.5 Mbps. For example, Hargray's minimum broadband speed is 5 Mbps for most customers.) In reality, however, your experience is determined by many factors, including network traffic, your own modem or router, wired or wireless access and camera quality. With that in mind, here are some tips to make your video chatting experience as painless as possible:
Never miss a local story.
With all the 4Gs in the works, it won't be long before cellular wireless speeds are good enough for quality video calls on our smartphones. My guess is my son will be able to have a video call with Grandma in a few years to tell her all about his first day of kindergarten -- and do so during the drive home. I'm looking forward to that day.
In the meantime, we'll have to make due with "only" being able to communicate with anyone in the world face-to-face on our computers. Ain't this technology stuff grand?