The imagined inventions of Victorian-era French novelist Albert Robida may be coming closer to reality.
Who, you ask? Robida was an illustrator and writer for popular science-fiction magazines, and is sometimes compared to Jules Verne. In his 1890 novel "Le Vingtieme siecle. La vie electrique," he described something called a "telephonoscope." Since then, we've seen telephonoscopes--basically videophones--in everything from "The Jetsons" to "Blade Runner." What we haven't seen is the videophone in our living rooms.
That may finally be changing.
The common use of videophones could happen through three technologies that separately aren't exactly considered bleeding edge today: high-speed Internet, a television, and Skype. Samsung says it will put the VoIP calling service Skype as an application on its televisions, allowing phone calls to be made on camera right from a couch, just like Jane Jetson talking into her TV set. The Samsung Skype-enabled TV follows similar announcements from Panasonic and LG at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
The models will range from to $1,200 to $2,000 for Panasonic's set. Samsung and LG have not yet announced how much they will charge.
The Skype on TV application should work similarly on all three models, which in turn should closely mimic the version of the application that many people use to make free PC to PC calls, or for a fee, PC to landline. Skype accounts are free to set up and can be activated using the TV's remote control right on the screen. The video calls will also be free, as will voice calls between Skype users. Using Skype to call traditional landline and mobile phones is a few cents per minute. Calls can be answered while watching a program, but it's not yet possible to both talk and continue to watch uninterrupted.
By the time these models actually hit stores in late spring there should be three TV makers offering Skype on their TVs. And not just any three TV makers, but the world's largest overall (Samsung sells practically one of every five TVs sold), the leader in plasmas (Panasonic), and LG, which is close behind Samsung, selling 15 percent of all TVs. … Read more