Streaming video has the potential of being one of the most useful Internet technologies. Currently the most
practical use of internet streaming media is Video On Demand or VOD which allows viewers to access streaming video
files from their web browser, but the potential uses of streaming video include interactive virtual classrooms and
even remote surgery.
Two way video conferencing is already a reality and we can see examples of it in instant messaging systems such
as MSN Messenger. The quality of this type of video streaming is quite low where the video image may be choppy and
of low resolution, but useful enough to transfer live images over thousands of miles.
Better quality two way video conferencing requires the use of
dedicated servers with relatively low bandwidth overhead. This type of system is useful for business conferencing
and allows participants to attend virtual meetings even when they are separated by great distances.
The ultimate in video streaming, but not yet a reality, is the ability for surgeons to operate on patients from
remote locations. This would require extremely high bandwidths that would allow doctors to remotely control
surgical equipment while receiving continuous visual, auditory and instrument feedback.
The current state of the technology allows doctors to remotely consult with each other and with patients. This
has proved a great benefit to medical facilities in sparsely populated areas. Medical personnel get immediate
feedback about emergency conditions they are otherwise unable to treat. This saves the time and expense of
transporting the patient to an urban center for treatment.
Video On Demand Overview
However, as mentioned above, the biggest application of streaming video is Video
On Demand or VOD. Video files are placed on a web server that can be accessed by anyone with a computer and
This can be very useful for schools and universities as it allows teachers to archive classroom material.
Videotaped lectures can be accessed at any time and they can be supplemented with additional multimedia or text
materials. Universities which specialize in distance learning rely on this type of video streaming.
VOD is useful for any large organization to distribute learning materials. Educational videos are effective
because they can be used to illustrate concepts and procedures which might otherwise be confusing. Viewers have the
ability to pause, rewind and review video materials until they have a firm grasp on the material being presented.
For these reasons, educational videos are sometimes more effective than classroom instruction, and video streaming
gives virtually unlimited access to this kind of educational material.
Of course, there are many other types of streaming videos besides educational videos. Anything that can be
videotaped can be stored on a web server and made available on the Internet or a private intranet. This includes
entertainment videos as well as business meetings, speeches or 'virtual tours' which allow viewers to see the
layout of a particular location.
Live video streaming can also be used to monitor remote locations. This is similar to surveillance cameras
except that streaming technology does not require the use of closed circuits. This means that the video can be
viewed from virtually anywhere in the world where there is an Internet connection.