Don’t Mess With My Reality

Posted by Voipfone on May 1, 2020

Here at Voipfone Towers we’re all very used to this lockdown, work from home stuff, because of course we’re all home workers and always have been. So it’s sort of amusing and a little frustrating hearing industry colleagues talking about it like they’re experts, having discovered it just 4 weeks ago.

Still, better late than never I suppose. But I’m now enduring video conference calls; something we tried out a dozen years ago, decided it was pants and have used ordinary voice conferencing ever since. (They’re free on Voipfone btw, you’ll find them here)

I even read a blog recently where IRL meetings – i.e. normal, everyday, face-to-face meetings – were called ‘legacy’ meetings. Too soon I feel.

Video conferencing is still pants, though the technology has improved. Sadly its security has got worse – Voipfone’s Sys Admins regard Zoom as hostile and are very jumpy when I tell them I have to use it, pointing me to various websites proclaiming its flaws.

But ‘normal’ video conferencing is so last year; the new kid on the block is Virtual Reality conferencing. And at the moment that too is pants. 3D pants. But at least it’s amusing. I’ve had a go at a very beta version from a company that you’ll know but I’m not allowed to mention.

Don’t get me wrong, some of this stuff makes you gasp in amazement – even an ancient cynic like me who saw it all before in the mid 90’s thought some of it was pretty damn cool. But the big downside is the headgear you have to have on and how you look like a complete dork to anyone watching in real reality. If you raise the headset to take a sip of coffee, everybody watching you in the virtual conference sees your head tilt up to the ceiling and your hands wave around your head.

And you have to use avatars because otherwise you need a full body green-screen scan and a lot of processing power – which is beyond us at the moment. So you join a meeting as a pirate and sit next to a cartoon clown. You finally work out who’s who but the next time John the clown comes as a lizard and Jane is a giant teddy bear.

Everything is a huge distraction; trying to get things done is impossible because everybody is still playing with, and being amazed by, the technology.

There are some glimpses of a real conferencing future though; being able to stand up and write on a virtual whiteboard is neat, so is being able to show a presentation to the group on what seems like an enormous cinema screen. But it’s got an awful long way to go before it’s a product.

Like almost everything in computing, it’ll only probably start becoming feasible once the games and pornography industries get their hands on it. Plus ça change.

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