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Can you see me now?

Instead of having videophones already, we have to hook up VoIP and webcams together for any semblance of Jetsons technology. Or do we?

With all this technology in the marketplace, it seems like the videophone should already be here, and on its way to getting streamlined. Instead, we have to hook up VoIP and webcams together for any semblance of Jetsons technology. Or do we? Anyone who wants to see their caller finally has the chance, with the Vialta’s Beamer video phone. It’s a bit pricey for casual use, clocking in at $249 for a single unit and $499 for two. But in many ways, it’s a good start toward a videophone future. In terms of setup, Vialta got it right–it’s far easier to hook up than nearly anything else in the house, and you can get going faster than the time it takes to program your VCR. Plus, additional cords come with the phone, which keeps the frustration level at a minimum.

In all, it took about five minutes from box to talk, which was pretty impressive. Once your friends or relatives hook up a unit on their end, you’re ready to chat. I tried it out with my grandparents, who aren’t the most technologically savvy individuals, and we were able to get videophoning quickly. The clean appearance of the units, and relatively good picture are pluses too, as are the three viewing options that let you see what you look like when you’re talking. The Beamer has its downsides, such as sporadically choppy picture quality. I assumed that because the images travel through phone lines, they suffer from the same quality problems as video seen over dial-up connections. Even with these drawbacks, it was a great product, and I loved that it didn’t require extra fees or subscriptions. Also, the faces my mom made as she peered into the video station were hilarious, and you can’t put a price on that.

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