This report is also available as an Acrobat file.
Potential uses for the future
Most users anticipate similar but much more widespread, regular use being made of videoconferencing technology on a world-wide basis in 1-5 years from now, with some seeing it being as ubiquitous as the telephone is today. In the fields of education, research and general purpose communications, there is a forecast for greatly expanded coverage beyond the boundaries of current projects and initiatives, together with the hope that the tools will be available close to the user (from his/her office) and cover a much wider area thanks to more affordable network technology.
Some specialist uses have also been identified, such as using videoconferencing as a medium for conducting and recording experiments and demonstrations in human-computer interaction, and for the remote use of overseas astronomical telescopes.
To facilitate this more widespread use of the technology, respondents would want to see:
- a much greater number of lectures using this medium, with the increased provision of remote teaching for those students who are sick;
- more classroom system links to lecture theatres for prestigious lectures;
- more distance learning (i.e. one-to-one tuition) as well as distance teaching;
- greater opportunity to share courses with other institutions;
- a greater number of meetings, training courses and conferences being made available using these tools, thus minimising travel;
- telecommuting from home on a greatly expanded scale.
- much easier set-up procedures, with the systems integrated into academic networks;
- much easier control of the audio and much better interactivity;
- better picture quality, especially on desk-top systems;
- much greater use of network resources (e.g. multimedia servers, databases shared over networks, etc.).
Limiting factors which currently prevent the use of videoconferencing on this scale include:
- Lack of other users
- Many sites with which respondents would like to communicate do not yet have videoconferencing equipment or access to ISDN, SuperJANET, etc.
- Network issues
- At present, the general network infrastructure makes more widespread use difficult. There is a lack of bandwidth on JANET and SuperJANET to support sufficient simultaneous users and there are problems in linking ISDN to other networks.
- Inadequate performance
- There were numerous reports that the tools in use are too unstable at present to support the predicted uses of the future. Video hardware and cameras are not bundled with most workstations yet, resulting in many users often being limited to audio and shared whiteboard. As one respondent commented, “videoconferencing is still a pretty new technology; it needs to mature a little more and prices need to come down a little.”
- Education issues
- There were complaints of a lack of adequate training in the use of videoconferencing for teachers and other employees. There seems to be little information currently available on the pedagogic aspects of distance teaching/learning. There also need to be changes in the philosophy of remote learning, which is currently grounded in the use of the one-way world of TV.
- Lack of funding
- Setting up a videoconferencing system can be an expensive business and there is often no centralised resource within an institution for funding such ventures.
Virtual Environments Visualisation