The technology of the audiovisual industry isn’t just growing, it’s evolving at a faster pace than anyone has seen before. It introduces interactivity and communicates ideas that cross great distances with such clarity that it’s mind-boggling if you just stop to consider the obstacles it has to conquer.
These days, audio visual equipment transfers images and sound from anywhere on the planet with virtually no down time. A delay of a few milliseconds in a video conference is generally seen as a failure because it messes with the brain’s perception, and effectively ruins the user experience.
This is called video latency, a term usually reserved for audio delays measured in milliseconds. It’s an annoying situation wherein the discrepancy is so small it’s negligible, but the brain can’t help but recognize that something isn’t right.
Late is Late
Many simple games on the internet measure reaction times, and display the narrow margin that audio and visual tools have to work in to replicate an actual conversation.
The average human reacts to specific stimuli at a median average of 215 milliseconds. This is already a casually slow pace because nearly eighty percent of that time is spent with the brain sending the reaction signal down to the finger to execute the command.
The brain receives signals at a much faster clip, especially with something as ingrained in our psyche as communication. The threshold audio and video systems need to work within is 12 milliseconds or less to effectively replicate a live conversation.
Twelve milliseconds is a near impossible feat to accomplish, especially if signals are being transmitted over hundreds of miles. There are too many variables interfering with the signals transit that it would be unrealistic, even for the most advanced audiovisual equipment, to deliver top quality video conferencing a hundred percent of the time.
What happens instead is the manipulation of latency to compensate. The equipment software adjusts the timing of the signal reception based on the expected lag it will receive from the rate data is received. Instead of giving the brain initial stimuli and playing catch-up throughout the rest of the communication, the system delays the stimuli, gathering all necessary data transmitted first.
Just like how technology connects people through great distances, it also manages to bridge a gap in itself to give people the user experience that they’ve all come to expect and rely on.