Sci-fi movies are notoriously bad at predicting how things will turn out but Back to the Future II got it right with one thing.
While we might not have hoverboards and fax machines have no place in the modern home, we can make video calls with colleagues from our TV sets.
If you’ve got a smart TV, chances are you’ve got Skype on there as well.
The ubiquitous video calling service has been available on connected TVs in some form since 2011 and is now installed on over 200 million connected TVs across the world.
LG, Samsung, Sony and Panasonic and TP Vision for Philips’s smart TV ranges all come with Skype pre-installed or available to download from each company’s respective app stores. Where cameras don’t come built in to a TV, you can pick up an external camera like Logitech’s TV Cam HD or Sony’s Webcam for TV.
We went along to Skype’s London HQ to get a demo of the most recent version of Skype on TV.
Theo Short, product manager for Skype on TV, took us through the service, explaining that all calls are VGA quality as standard, switching up to higher resolutions (up to 720p) once the quality and speed of both connections has been established.
While latency and packet loss are arguably more important, Short said that Skype on TV would work on speeds as slow as 800kbps with HD calls possible on speeds as slow as 1.2Mbps.
As well as currently being the only video calling service available on smart TVs, or so Skype claims, the service is improving all the time. Recent additions to the Skype app for Samsung Smart TVs featuring an innovative new picture in picture (PIP) system called Watch in Skype.
Watch in Skype is a multitasker’s dream come true as it basically lets you carry on watching live TV while taking a video call with a friend. Thanks to a partnership between Samsung and chip makers Conexant, the audio from the live TV feed won’t bleed into the microphones that pick up your voice.
Whoever is on the other end of the line will just get the sound of your voice coming through and not the muffled noise of the Man City vs Man United game as well. Obviously some people could find this approach a bit rude, so if you’re talking to a loved one it might be best to simply pause whatever it is your watching and give them your full undivided attention.
This feature is currently only available on Samsung Smart TVs with Conexant’s CX20865 voice input processor. Skype is free to download now on your smart TV and is also available on Windows, Mac and Linux machines, selected iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry OS devices and games devices including Sony’s PSP, PS Vita and (it’s rumoured) the forthcoming PlayStation 4. There will also be a Skype app for Microsoft’s Xbox One.