Although not as widely used in everyday communications as audio-only and text communication, useful applications include sign language transmission for deaf and speech-impaired people, distance education, telemedicine, and overcoming mobility issues.
By reducing the need to travel to bring people together, this technology also contributes to reductions in carbon emissions, thereby helping to reduce global warming.
The concept of videotelephony was first popularized in the late 1870s in both the United States and Europe, although the basic sciences to permit its very earliest trials would take nearly a half century to be discovered.
In 1984, Concept Communication in the United States replaced the then-100 pound, US$100,000 computers necessary for teleconferencing, with a $12,000 circuit board that doubled the video frame rate from 15 up to 30 frames per second, and which reduced the equipment to the size of a circuit board fitting into standard personal computers.
Videoconferencing systems throughout the 1990s rapidly evolved from very expensive proprietary equipment, software and network requirements to a standards-based technology readily available to the general public at a reasonable cost.
The first dedicated systems started to appear as ISDN networks were expanding throughout the world.
One of the first commercial videoconferencing systems sold to companies came from Picture Tel Corp., which had an Initial Public Offering in November, 1984.
A videophone is a telephone with a video display, capable of simultaneous video and audio for communication between people in real-time.
Videoconferencing implies the use of this technology for a group or organizational meeting rather than for individuals, in a videoconference.
Attempts at using normal telephony networks to transmit slow-scan video, such as the first systems developed by AT&T Corporation, first researched in the 1950s, failed mostly due to the poor picture quality and the lack of efficient video compression techniques.