Video, gaming, and the future

The Register has an interesting report about research into video conferencing: what works in video conferencing, what doesn’t work, and why isn’t the technology used more.

Boffins at BT’s Adastral Park have been looking at video calling, trying to work out why we persist with voice and how video calling might get good enough for the whole family to enjoy.

The project was called Together Anywhere Anytime, or TA2 (tattoo), and comprised four years of study winding up in March this year, but now there’s a follow-up project and research continues trying to establish what works in video, and why so little of our interaction transfers to the screen.

Now this is where it gets interesting:

TA2 involved 12 companies who had pitched for, and won, an EU grant worth €18m to study how people communicate over video connections. BT was the project leader, and much of the work was done at the Adastral site, but other partners included Goldsmiths College, Alcatel Lucent and Fraunhofer, not to mention board-game maker Ravensburger and half a dozen others. They are all trying to work out how families might interact over video connections and how video calling itself might be improved.

Quite adventurous of Ravensburger.

The most-quantifiable result of that research is a video system which incorporates an electronic director, who picks and cuts between shots like a human director, based on analysis of the incoming audio and video.

It doesn’t sound that attractive to me. I wouldn’t be rushing to play a game by video conference. Why? I want to sit in the same room as my opponent(s). I want real, live, human interaction. Video interaction is not the same, and won’t be for a long, long time.

Video conferencing has been around for decades, and these days it’s as good as free, so it’s fair to ask why we don’t make more use of it. Such questions don’t always have commercially useful answers, but it’s interesting to know that if you want to play Articulate with someone in a different room, then a dozen computers and four years of development can make that work.

It may be more interesting to note that (in my experience) people in business overwhelmingly prefer conference calls to video conferences. Understanding that may give technology firms a better handle on whether it’s possible to increase the use of video conferencing. I am sure the technology can be tweaked, developed, and improved to deliver what we would want to make us use video conferencing, if we actually wanted to use it. In other words, maybe there is some facet of human nature that turns us off from using video conferencing. I can think of some, but have no authoritative research to back up my belief that they are widespread. Researching a technological solution seems to be ignoring, wrongly, the human perspective. They are looking for a needle in the wrong haystack.

If video conference gaming was the only game in town, so to speak, I’d be putting my energies into other hobbies and interests.