Featured Article from Conferencing

Researchers Explore Potential of Outdoor Video Conferencing

July 26, 2017

The high temperatures in Scottsdale have been in the 100s lately. And now that monsoon season has hit, it’s not even a dry heat anymore. That said, us Arizona dwellers have been spending a lot more time indoors lately. And that’s kind of a bummer, because I’m an avid hiker, and my husband and daughter are really into mountain biking.

Biking and hiking in this heat, while we still sometimes do it during early morning or late afternoon hours, can be dangerous. So we need to either go north to enjoy more time outdoors or visit the gym for what can be much more uninspiring workout sessions.

That’s why when I learned about the work being done around video conferencing solutions that make you feel like you’re outdoors and that enable people to share outdoor experiences with others who are at remote locations, I wanted to learn more. And perhaps you will too. Here are some details.

Researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia believe that, in the future, outdoor video conferencing and shared experiences involving remotely located individuals will become more widespread. And they have been exploring how people can share their outdoor experiences using video conferencing applications like FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Skype.

"We're thinking about two people going for a walk and they could live anywhere in the world but they could sort of feel like they're walking together," said Carman Neustaedter, a Simon Fraser professor involved in this project. "We've looked at bicycle riding as another basic case, and we've also been studying geocaching, where people could go geocaching but live in completely different areas of the world."

This is an interesting concept because it could take collaboration, sharing, and social media to a whole new level. And it could grant people who feel tied to their desks, or trapped inside due to weather or other factors, a nice reprieve.

Of course, we can already easily share outdoor photos and videos with others via a variety of mediums. But to truly enable people at different locations to feel they are sharing outdoor experiences – like biking, hiking, or geocaching – is a whole different thing. And that creates some challenges, as Neustaedter and her colleagues note in their recent paper “Mobile Video Conferencing for Sharing Outdoor Leisure Activities Over Distance.”

Some of those considerations include broadband availability, camera angles and videos, how and when audio and video are presented, lighting, and privacy issues both for the participants and for others surrounding them.