While the internet continues to be the greatest revolution of the past two generations, many would argue that it pales in comparison to the waves thrown off by the invention of the telephone. Imagine living before Alexander Graham Bell’s revolutionary innovation. Messages could be tapped out through experimental telegraph systems as early as the 17th century, but not until 1849 could the human voice be transmitted across great distances through electrical signals. It was a sea change for the human race that many people living at the time could barely comprehend. And as remarkable as that change was for people living almost 200 years ago, we’re preparing for even greater communication innovations within the coming decades.
Today it is already possible to call almost anyone in the world from almost any location. EnjoyPrepaid has options for covering phone charges well in advance of any travel. There are numerous options for international phone coverage. Some people opt to purchase international roaming plans. Others swap out SIM cards on their jailbroken smartphone, one for each country they visit. Still others use one of numerous free calling applications, like Google Voice and Skype.
That last company is perhaps the one that best hints at our future. Skype was definitely amazing when it emerged in 2003. People were amazed to see their friends and loved ones’ faces onscreen, even if the early performance of the app didn’t function as smoothly as it does today. In the intervening 13 years there have been numerous copycats, and Skype’s influence has been felt across many different social media platforms. But perhaps the greatest impact it has had in inspiring future technologies is in the field of telepresence.
Telepresence hasn’t captured the national discourse quite like it will in the future. What is telepresence you ask? To quote Richard Baldwin, “Telepresence is half of a table with life-size screens, good light, lots of cameras, and microphones. Then the other half of the table is somewhere else. When people sit at the table you have a very strong impression that they are in the same room.”
The applications of such a technology are immediately obvious, and will surely embody options not yet imaginable to us in the present day. As of yet, telepresence technologies are extremely expensive and do not work tremendously well, but the day of seamless performance is coming, and you can bet that the first time you use it you will be amazed.
Communications technologies like these continue to make the world a smaller place. Three hundred years ago, it was impossible to communicate in real time with anyone who was not within eyesight. Today, we can communicate irrespective of earthly distance. Techniques in quantum communication seem to indicate that one day these distances may be spread across solar systems. For now, we have more than enough innovation to handle. The promise of telepresence and the continuing sophistication of consumer devices like smartphones are changing the way the world communicates. For people who love this stuff, the future can’t come fast enough.