In 1966, it was a safe bet that many TV sets would be tuned into NBC each Thursday night for Star Trek. The world was captivated by the adventures of the fearless crew of the Starship Enterprise as it boldly went where no man had gone before, defeating intergalactic terrorists and occasionally romancing green skinned women. Part of the appeal of Star Trek was the amazing, and that stage, purely theoretical technology, such as the ships main screen which acted as an information panel, a telescope, and a communication device. The ship would receive a transmission, Captain Kirk would gruffly request “on screen,” and the person who was calling would appear on said screen, almost as though they were right there in the room with you.
Fast forward several decades and this idea of video calling isn’t exactly a big deal. Many of us might even resent the technology when applied at the office, since video conferencing means that business trips are no longer needed anywhere near as frequently as they once were. Most of us have probably experienced the fairly unique experience of conducting a meeting via video conference, sometimes making us wonder if we should have dressed up for it, instead of just wearing jeans. Video conferencing and collaborations don’t begin and end in the office, however, and there are many ways in which this technology can be utilized.
Before the advent of video conferencing technology, many children who lived in isolated areas without a designated school would receive a significant portion of their education via the radio. A teacher would be at the other end, going through the lessons with the students, and the remainder of the work would then be supervised by a parent or volunteer, and any hard copy that needed to be seen by the teacher would be reliant on the Postal Service. Video conferencing has opened up a whole new world of distance learning, and there are many educational institutions that operate exclusively via video conferencing, often utilizing a dedicated conferencing service such as Blue Jeans Network. The teacher can see the students, he or she can open documents on the screen and explain them, and the whole process of distance learning has become far more streamlined.
Ideally in the instance of a medical problem, you would get to the doctor as soon as you can. This is not always possible for those in rural communities, or people who might not be able to easily leave their homes due to illness or disability. While it’s not an entirely effective substitute for seeing an actual doctor, video conferencing allows a medical professional to view the ailment in question, and discuss it in detail with the patient. The medical professional may then be able to prescribe medication which will be delivered to the patient, or they can recommend that the patient actually needs to visit a doctor for further treatment. The interactive nature of the technology means that the patient can easily speak with the diagnosing medical professional if the situation changes.
Video Conferencing and the Legal System
In drawn out court cases, it might not be possible for all witnesses to appear in person when they need to give their evidence, particularly if it takes the case a while to actually go to trial. Video conferencing is being used more and more in legal cases, allowing witnesses who might not live in the city or even the country where the trial is taking place to give evidence easily and effectively. Whether or not this method of giving evidence is allowed can vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, yet many governing bodies are quickly recognizing video conferencing as a cost effective means of presenting evidence. It can also be used in the case of a Vulnerable Witness, where the trauma of appearing in court might be too much for the witness, and so they can give their evidence from a neutral place via video conferencing.
Video conferencing and collaboration doesn’t need to be limited to an office meeting that can bring together many different participants in many different locations, although this is still quite remarkable. Nor does it need to just be thought of as an easy way to speak with friends and family members on special occasions because you forgot to send them a Christmas or Birthday card. We are barely scratching the surface of all the applications for video conferencing and collaboration, and who knows – maybe in the not too distant future, our real life space explorers might use to communicate with alien races, or even to flirt with green skinned women.