One of the changes from having a child in the house is that friends and relatives want to have video chats with me whereas previously they were content to talk by phone (or not to talk at all!). I’ve tried Skype and Facetime and Google Chat on computers ranging from a 6-core monster to an iPad 2. Whether hardwired to the 5/15 Mbps Verizon FiOS connection or connected via 802.11n, the quality is almost always terrible, with jerky video and unreliable audio.
I can’ t figure out why this is. A reasonable voice phone call can be had with a 12 kbit/second connection. The same computers and Internet connection are used very successfully to stream high quality videos down from YouTube and NetFlix. The same network was used very successfully with Vonage for smooth voice calls. It can’t be a server issue, I don’t think, because these services should be peer-to-peer. I don’t think it is a too-hard-to-compress issue. The 6-core machine can compress a 1080p AVCHD video into a 720p .mp4 file in about 50% of real-time (i.e., can process 2 minutes of video in 1 minute), so presumably even a single CPU core should be able to do compression on the low-resolution videos that are standard for these services.
Why is it that the golden age of video conferencing is not yet upon us?