This is an understatement:
Boston University provides face-to-face video conferencing equipment and facilities.
It should read:
Boston University is connected to the fastest private broadband network in the U.S., and 4K webcams have just become affordable, so you can live stream, video chat, webinar, or just plain waste a day watching Netflix all in Ultra HD right from your dorm room!
At least that’s how I’d brag about how BU students can luxuriate in the fastest, clearest, brightest, most detailed video call experience currently available to humans who don’t own their own cable company.
Webcam maker Logitech has given us the first commercially available 4K camera, and the Internet2 consortium of 200 universities has given us the super high-speed network needed to make it fly.
So let’s see what you can achieve when the highly evolved becomes readily available.
Let’s go Terriers! (Yes, the mascot of Boston University is actually a Boston Terrier).
The Limits of 4K Video Calling
In the interest of accuracy and precision, I admit BU is hardly a “readily available” university, or typical of the U.S. college experience. With a $1.6 billion endowment, it can afford to give each of its 33,000 students whatever tech they need.
Unfortunately, however, it currently takes something elite to get the most out of 4K video streaming and calling. The average U.S. household connection just isn’t big enough or fast enough to convey all the data that travels in both directions during a 4K video call.
As a result, there are few applications currently available that can put 4K calling to its proper use. YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon have made 4K streaming possible for those who can handle it, but that information flow is only half that required for video calling, since streaming is one-sided.
However, domestic internet speeds are increasing–they jumped up by more than 40% last year–and the hardware/webcam end of the equation is already here, and is already (pretty) affordable.
An Affordable 4K Webcam
Earlier this year, Logitech introduced the BRIO webcam. Among its list of features, including facial recognition and background removal, the BRIO is the first to incorporate 4K calling in a webcam intended for mass consumption.
It’s expensive for a webcam, almost twice the price of the company’s popular C922 Pro Stream, but that just moves it up into the gaming class of video devices rather than those aimed at casual users.
If you’re a student at BU, or any of the other 199 colleges currently hooked up to the ultra-high speed Internet2 network, however, that’s an affordable price to pay to get access to 4K streaming and calling.
That network is fast enough to let remote orchestras use video conferencing to play together in real-time without lag. Whatever you can imagine as the visual equivalent of that kind of spectacle is possible with 4K video conferencing.
Using 4K Video Conferencing
For a start, everything you’ve already experienced during a standard definition or even HD video call is now bigger, brighter, and clearer. That means being able to clearly pick out a face among a crowd of dozens during a large group chat, or making crystal clear any object held to a camera in a product demonstration or lecture.
Things get more interesting on the college campus, however. An affordable 4K camera gives every student the chance to collaborate, exhibit, visit, witness, and learn in ridiculous, in-person clarity.
- Art students can display the finest details of their work
- Drama students can get expert remote coaching on subtle facial movements
- Engineering students can talk and view in detail the smallest components
- Science students can present slides and samples in incredible clarity
- Medical students can watch intimate, real-time surgeries
- Business students can stage professional-grade presentations to peers and private entrepreneurs
With an affordable 4K webcam and the right network to run it on, students can have round-table discussion with peers at colleges all over the country, without blurry or lagging visuals destroying the illusion of intimacy.
While the rest of us have to wait a little while longer for ready access to a network powerful enough to make it work, students at these Internet2 campuses can enjoy 4K streaming and calling today. And they don’t have to get a second job waiting tables at the local coffee shop to afford the camera.