This week, we read Steven Levy’s “Living on a Stream: The Rise of Real-Time Video,” and were tasked with betting for it or against it. Levy says that in 10 years, over half of the videos we watch will be in real-time, while his friend Kevin Kelly bets that it will not be true.
It’s funny that Levy uses the app Color as his example of what the future will hold, as Color notoriously turned out to be one of the biggest and most embarrassing start-up failures in recent memory. Technology changes fast and is often quite unpredictable, which is one of the points of the piece, but the unpredictability factor works against the author, even just four years later.
Of course, I’m sure that if Levy wrote the article now, he’d cite Twitch as his top example, the popularity of which is certainly real and points to some kind of trend. I don’t know if I’d still bet on his side, though. I think there are some things that are suited for live consumption, like news, sports (and other competitions), award shows, pageants and panda cams, but most of the things that are happening in real-time are just not that interesting to simply watch as they’re happening. Improved streaming quality and technological advances don’t make mundane things compelling.
But I do think that if video chat is within his definition of “real-time video,” then maybe he does have a point. We enjoy looking at the faces of our friends and family as we speak to them, and that is an area that I think could overtake simple phone calls if the technology improves. Also, once video-conferencing gets even better, I’m guessing more employers would be willing to have employees that work remotely if there isn’t much of a loss in productivity.
In general, though, I’d go with Kelly.