The Advent of "Ambient Video"
A behavioral phenomenon that’s growing in popularity among Skype users is something we like to call “Ambient Video.” Some of our users are now leaving Skype video calls with their friends and family running nearly all the time.
Interestingly, this is something we’ve also been doing internally at Skype for a number of years in order to connect our different offices with one another. We have TV screens placed near all the water coolers in our offices so that anyone in one office can see what’s going on in any of our other offices around the globe via Skype Group Video Call.
(Image c/o Foodie Misadventures)
I talked about this trend during my on-stage session with Kara Swisher at the 10th annual D: All Things Digital Conference earlier this year, and I feel strongly that this will continue to flourish. Here’s why:
- We know that video calling is a practical way to stay connected with family and close friends across long distances and while travelling. But when these connections are open between two points all the time, it can help make people feel like they are at home together with each other. It delivers the warmth and familiarity of both the location and the people our users love all the time.
- Ambient video also has symbolic significance, especially for those in a relationship that are using video calling to keep in touch. Leaving the connection open indefinitely can act as an indication of the emotional depth of the commitment. It can act as a stark sign of support, saying, “I am always there with you.” We’ve heard numerous tales of Skype users falling asleep next to their boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses on a Skype video call.
- The concept of ‘live sharing’, especially through video, has become a more commonly accepted behavior. It eliminates the trouble of setting up specific times to chat, and video always helps paint a greater picture of what’s going on in someone’s life than audio alone. You get to see where someone is, their surroundings and most importantly, their expressions and body language. We know how important this is from the results of a seminal study at UCLA which indicated that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. So video calling helps convey some very important elements of what’s being said – notably, facial expression.
I see this behavior as one of the hallmarks of the evolution of real-time communication. As global adoption of the Internet, text-messaging and social media continue to rise, we’re increasingly living in a world of always-on connectivity. Thanks to Skype video calling, family and friends alike are just a simple click or tap away.