Video calling is one of those “futuristic” technologies that seemed to have snuck into modern life and passed by without much hoo-hah. Despite its obvious advantages – with so much communication being non-verbal – I still get the majority of my calls over the phone or communicate via email.
This could be for a number of reasons: circumstances, convenience, my ridiculous beard. However I’m also guessing that the low quality of webcams played a factor – blocky pixellated faces are not that much fun to look at and unless you have special circumstances – such as a loved one the other side of the globe – then it didn’t always seem worth the effort.
Of course the situation is improving. High quality webcams are included in most modern smartphones and tablets (you can even get one for my TV) and the proliferation of iDevices should have more people Skyping and FaceTiming each other. People on more traditional machines (as John Gruber so rightly points out, with the proliferation of tablets and smartphones we should probably rethink what we class as a personal computer) now have access to HD webcams, offering high resolution video calling if you have a suitably fast internet connection.
The Logitech C510 is one such device. The USB2.0 connection means you can add it to just about any machine and be ready for action. It worked pretty much instantly in OSX, without recourse to drivers like the bad old days of computing. The C510 is designed for portability and is built to fold up and be thrown in a bag. This is useful – although the cable is left dangling out the back. A detachable (lose-able) cable might make things a little neater, but it’s not a major problem. The actual webcam is designed to perch on top of your monitor but the reasonably flexible design means you can make it freestanding with a little bit of practice. A marquee feature is the “swivel-cam” which means you can grab the camera and rotate it 360 degrees – cable permitting – to show your conversational partner what is happening around you. I know you could just pick up with the webcam and show them, but it’s a nice little feature.
Skype HD or Logitech Vid HD allow you to make HD 720p video calls and there is one-click uploading to Facebook and YouTube – so expect more Young Girl Talking About Herself videos than every before. In HD!
You can also take 8-megapixel photos of the things in front of your laptop with a reasonably good (but not amazing) camera.
The Logitech C510 is around ¬£45 and worth a look if you make a lot of video calls and would like people to actually see you.