It occurred to me recently, after chatting with a couple of friends in Portland using my iPad, that video calling has actually become a regular and casual part of my life. It took a while to get here though.
There have long been ads for Rogers video calling on the subway, but they was restricted to cellphone calls over 3G, and there was a long time where many cellular devices still lacked a decent front-facing camera (if they had one at all). Video chatting has been around on the PC for a while in the form of “Skype dates” or meetings, but they were most often (and still are) scheduled events because they usually involve two parties logging onto a service and then making contact.
These days it has become trivial to start a video call with someone. That’s because of always-on services like FaceTime and Google Hangouts, where you can log in once and always be reachable, pending an Internet connection.
I don’t do it all the time, but it feels easy enough to ring someone up to check if they’re up for a video call. If they’re busy or don’t feel like being on camera, they’ll decline and message me back.
That’s significant because few of my friends are techies, so the fact that this has caught on with them means that this isn’t just me getting excited about the possibilities of technology to enhance our lives. This is one case of the future already feeling like it has come to pass, and I forgot to mark the exact date it all happened.
The downside of all of this is that video calls often ring across my Mac, iPhone, and iPad simultaneously, and answering the call on one device often leaves the other two ringing for a few seconds more…but I’m hoping someone smart will get to that at some point.