As we spend more and more of our time indoors (those of us not deemed “essential”, anyway), we’re seeing an uptick in what was once solely the domain of sci-fi: video conferencing.
Whether we’re talking about the main viewscreen on the Enterprise (pick your model year) or the video payphones in Blade Runner, the concept of seeing the person you’re talking to has been the golden ring of long-distance communication for a long time. Recently, almost seamlessly, this concept has finally wormed its way into the mainstream.
Some of you are probably taking a lot of meetings over Zoom or Hangouts or whatever crazy software your company, college, or local school district decided on. But I wanted to bring up another use for the same technology that’s come into my life recently.
Shrinking the globe.
Last year, my wife and I moved cross-country. Aside from the various complications involved in any major endeavor, our major regret was that we’d be leaving friends and family stranded on the far side of the country, a situation most keenly felt around various holidays.
Say what you want about Facebook as an intrusive megacorp or personal data broker. They came up with a great way for families to connect. This was the break-point between teleconferencing being for sci-fi and corporate meetings to a household appliance available on Amazon Prime. We got a couple of units for the family as going-away presents.
It’s not the same as being there, but the ability to see a bunch of people on both sides, interact in a living room instead of at a computer desk, makes catching up less abstract. Texts are sterile. Voice calls are disembodied. There’s something real-time about holding something up to a camera and showing it while you talk, about seeing life going on instead of a curated backdrop in someone’s home office.
Technology is both shrinking the world and partitioning it. Each home is becoming an island unto itself. But more and more, there are windows to every other point in the world you might want to talk to.