If FaceTime Gives Me A Double-Chin, Does Skype Make Me Look Fat?

I got a kick out of hearing about the “FaceTime Facelift” procedure recently developed by Dr. Robert K. Sigal, M.D., the director of the Austin-Weston Center For Cosmetic Surgery.  It turns out that people video calling on iPhones and mobile devices tend to look like they have a bit of a double-chin because of the position of their face when looking down towards the phone.  It also turns out that the usual face lift procedure won’t work to solve the problem because the cut is made under the chin right where everyone can see it as you’re looking down into your phone.  To solve the problem, Dr. Sigal developed his special “FaceTime Facelift” which places the cuts behind the ear where they are not visible when you’re using FaceTime.

Although right now I tell myself I would never undergo the knife for a chin tuck, the truth is that the growth of media technology has made appearances more important that ever before.

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Videoconferencing: The Kid On A Corner

With all the research and effort put into recreating Star Trek fantasies of communicating via life-like screen images, you’d think people would be more enthusiastic about actually using the amazing videoconferencing technologies out there today!  But surprisingly, as mentioned in an earlier post, videoconferencing tools have been painfully slow to gain popularity in the workplace.  Today, I’d like to take a closer look at some of those possible reasons.

Sociologists Allan and Thorns (2009) have done a nice job listing previous research investigating the problem.*  Some studies found that videoconferencing was seen as too inconvenient, expensive, unreliable, or unnecessary.  Other studies discussed the difficulties of reproducing contexts, social cues, social influences, and other important face-to-face interactions.  Still others examined the ways organizations convince people to use these media-rich technologies.

Given the wide range of possibilities, an interesting question to ask at this point might be:  Is this a problem of technology or a problem of human psychology?  Literature suggests that it’s probably a bit of both.  Allan and Thorns (2009) concluded Continue reading

“Technology must be self-evident.”

A couple weeks ago, ZDnet posted this wonderful article that perfectly describes one of the major problems with telepresence, videoconferencing, and tech in general.  Link header title? “The new reality: Technology must be self-evident.”

This means that it must be obvious a feature exists (“the product does this”) and also obvious how to use it (“I see.  I just click there where it say’s ‘click’.”)

The opposite of self-evident, of course, is that you don’t know what the product does, and having too much feature bloat likely makes it difficult to do even the basic functions.

I love my keychain swiss army knife.  With one blade, one file, scissors, a toothpick and tweezers, I know what it Continue reading

Phones aren’t phones—call anyway!

It may not be official, but if you’ve been suspicious that people in their twenties and younger aren’t picking up their phones, you’re right.  There’s a ton of anecdotal evidence to support this (such as this recent ZDnet article).  I started really thinking about this two years ago when I was driving to a twenty-something friend’s house.

I was running late (that’s L.A. traffic for you) and called ahead to say so.  I was a good boy and used my Bluetooth headset.   I also knew the friend was at her house, available to pick up the phone.

I got sent to voicemail.

One minute later I get a text Continue reading

Hillary’s Speech Internet Freedom

Wow.  Great speech.

I recommend that everyone read this speech given by Hillary Clinton today.

From a video collaboration and human-computer interaction standpoint, this is a watershed moment in politics.  There are plenty of articles already discussing the humanist message or how Google’s showdown with China changed the world and I won’t bother covering that here.  Instead, I’ll dwell on the implications of what this means directly to human behavior and our marketplace.

A little backstory:  Milton Chen, our CEO, was intrigued by the history of video conferencing and the mystery it presented.  Bell Labs (now AT&T) had already worked on video calling technology back in 1927.  Think about that.  1927.  Wow.  So why did it never take off?  Answering that question became the foundation of our company.

93 years later, video conferencing has finally become useful.  Companies like ours, Skype, VidSoft, ooVoo, Cisco, etc., have managed to overcome many of the obstacles to making productive use of video.  However, just making something productive doesn’t make it sticky to the general public.  I know a lot of research occurred here at VSee, and I’m assuming at the other places, to try and encourage people to take advantage of the advantages.  Unfortunately, it takes a big lever to move human resistance to new things.  Remember, we didn’t always have cell phones in our pockets.  I assume most of you reading this are old enough to remember a time when we wouldn’t be caught dead with a phone in our pockets!  I mean, seriously, who wants to be reachable when they’re neither at work nor at home?  (25 years later, it turns out the answer is “everyone”.)

For each of us who played Pong as a kid, there are two kids that grew up in an already digital world, at least in this and many other countries.  They, and we, take it for granted that digital is here to stay.  That generation became early adopters, with many of us in our 30s and above that used to be the early adopters learning to catch up.  These kids accept that video calls may be worth trying, because so was putting Facebook on their iPhones.  And this is where Hillary’s speech on Internet Freedom enters the picture.

We already knew something was up in our little tech sector.  The parents of these kids, their older coworkers, their bosses, all these people witnessed what this new generation was doing and now these people also have tiny cellphones that text what is happening at any moment to every friend they’ve ever met…while watching a movie bought on iTunes play on that tiny screen.  Now they interact with technology as if it was a natural extension of their lives.

Which it is.

I laud Hillary’s statement of freedoms and her goals of bringing modern tech to the undeveloped world.  But I’m also hugely excited that our State Department saw fit to issue a policy stance on people’s right to tech.  Enough Americans have tech so deeply ingrained in their lives—HAVE ALTERED THEIR BEHAVIOR TO ENCOMPASS TECHNOLOGY—that our government took notice…and this indicates a potential tipping point.  Phenomenal technologies that have traditionally been difficult for the public to accept may now be on the edge of massive acceptance, due to our behavioral changes at a societal level and our outright comfort with the levels of technology we have reached.

I think this speech could be the leading indicator of another massive tech boom.  And I think I speak for a lot of people when I say, “Finally.”