In the cartoon, The Jetsons, face-to-face video chats were common, while for us it only started picking up pace the last few years. in late 1998 a few co-workers and I was working on a video chat program called Global Video Chat. The picture quality was ok at about 600x800 resolution and not as beautiful right now. It took about 40-50% of a computer using a Intel Pentium III and was running on a 56K modem. DSL started to roll out to the public a few months later which help speed up the video chat. Still not many laptops have enough processing power for video chat and there wasn't too much of a demand, so few programs were develop.
Video chat became popular the last few years. Portable video cameras that can be added to a computer can be pick up for about $20. More powerful computer hardware and software that allow better compression and lesser computer resource drain. Apple have a video camera on all its laptops, iMacs, iPod Touch, and iPhones (except iPads, oh why) and have available installed software for a smooth video chat. The new iPhone 4 have face-to-face chat, which many other phone companies are copying.
What is so great about video chats? Imagine being able to preview a home and letting your buyers see what you are seeing while they are at home or work. Being able to see your out-of-state relative's faces while you talk to them. Going to virtual training without driving to a physical campus. Working from home. There are many possibilities and it does not cost alot ranging in about $200 for a camera kit to get started.
Do you believe that video chat will become very common in the future like cell phones? Or will it fade away like the beepers?