Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Future Home Innovations ... That Weren't


2
Videophones
Videophones aren't the norm yet, but that may change in the near future.
Videophones aren't the norm yet, but that may change in the near future.
Colin Anderson/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

“You may be thinking, "Wait a second. I have a videophone; I can Skype or use FaceTime via my smartphone or computer." While this is true, I'm talking about a videophone that you use all the time instead of a traditional, voice-based phone -- it's your dedicated phone. You may choose to use Skype or FaceTime to call someone who lives far away (especially if you still have a landline). But you're probably not pulling it up to order a pizza late at night, and you don't have the person on the other end on a huge screen when you call. People on "The Jetsons" were always camera-ready, but we're not!

A French illustrator named Villemard drew a "correspondence cinema" in 1910, which showed an image of the person on the other end projected on the wall. So we've been thinking about videophones before television.

For the most part, early videophones were a series of still images accompanying a traditional telephone call -- not actual streaming, real-time video. In 1936, there was even a public videophone system (covering just 100 miles) between the German cities of Berlin and Leipzig. Then in the 1960s, AT&T demonstrated a videophone that it called Picturephone at fairs and Disneyland. In 1964, AT&T installed some public Picturephones in a few cities around the country, but it was very expensive and unpopular.

While it's not expensive anymore, and video telephony via computer is growing in popularity, we're still OK with most phone calls being audio only. Is it because we don't want to have to look "nice" each time we make a call? Or maybe we'd rather have conversations face-to-face if we're going to have a visual. Video telephony is improving all the time, but depending on your Internet connection, it can still be jerky, causing frustration if the audio and video don't synch. Videophones have been wonderful for the deaf and for specialized uses, but we haven't yet reached the time of TV-sized calling screens.


More to Explore