In our quest to get the best service possible, whether from doctors, music teachers or financial consultants, we were once limited by geography. But since the advent of the webcam, our options have become virtually limitless. Video conferencing has made interactive meetings possible even when the participating parties are located in different countries.
Now, a wide range of occupations are using webcams to make their tasks more convenient and effective. From companies interviewing prospective employees over video chat to virtual court hearings that save money and help close cases faster, here are 10 jobs that have been changed by video conferencing technology.
Looking for a job? Make sure your webcam is in working order. More and more companies are vetting candidates via video conferencing, especially when potential hires live in another city. Using virtual software rather than in-person interviews can save companies a lot of money, and help candidates feel more at ease. This way, the company can cast a broad net, seeking out the best possible job candidates and then flying in only the top two or three.
Can't find a good bagpipe teacher in your area? No problem. Video conferencing software makes it much easier to find music teachers who specialize in less common instruments. Teachers can still watch the students' posture, hand positioning and other important elements of learning an instrument, and with good quality audio, they can hear every nuance. Plus, online music lessons are convenient for teachers and students, making it easier to fit in more lessons.
Whether they're helping their students learn another language or assisting them in math problems, tutors of all stripes can use video chat to make their lessons more engaging. Despite being in different locations, students of a foreign language can see their tutor's mouths as they enunciate, making it easier to learn. Most video tutoring also involves video conference software that enables teachers and students to share documents and exchange notes.
Just when it seemed that house calls were a thing of the past, doctors are making their way into their patient's homes again with video chat. A 2011 study by Manhattan Research found that 7 percent of physicians are using video conferencing to communicate with their patients. Doctors may use webcams to quickly check in with patients or for psychiatric therapy sessions.
Imagine being prescribed a new medication that has to be injected, but you've never done it before. Instead of approaching your first injection with fear, you simply log onto a pharmacy website and initiate a video chat with a pharmacist who can guide you through the process, watching to make sure you're doing it right. This kind of virtual one-on-one interaction is already possible, and many more pharmacies may begin offering similar services in the future.
Computer giant Dell is thinking about using Google+ Hangouts, Google's new video chat platform, as an alternative to customer service calls. Video chat could make customer support more personal, and could be especially helpful for customers who aren't familiar with computer hardware and software. Some companies already offer 'video chat rooms' where customers can instantly connect to representatives who can guide them through their problems and answer their questions.
The retail site Land's End is among the first to offer virtual personal shoppers that can demonstrate product features and details, offering even more information about a product than a customer could get by handling the product in person. While the customer can see the retail agent who assists them in their purchases, it's a one-way video interaction; the agent can't see the customer. That way, shoppers can feel comfortable participating in the video chats, even if they're in their pajamas.
Some banks are beginning to offer online consultancy services via webcam to their customers, and independent financial consultants may follow suit. Roman Chromik, head of mass market at Bank Austria, explains in this article why the nation's largest financial institution has decided to offer virtual communications to its customers. "We aim to offer our customers all available communication channels to get in contact with us. Using online meetings, our customers are able to say, 'I would like a thorough consultation, but whenever and wherever it suits me.'"
While hands-on care is still a necessity, webcams have helped parents and child care providers keep an eye on kids if they have to run out of the room for a few minutes. For example, when one parent is sick, the other can set up the webcam and have the kids interact with grandparents or other adults while they care for their spouse. And many childcare centers are giving parents more peace of mind by offering streaming video throughout the day, so that worried moms and dads can simply log on and see what their child is doing at any given moment.
Some courts in Britain have been using virtual hearings since 2010, especially in the case of drunk drivers. People caught drinking and driving in some cities are put before magistrates on webcam, and could lose their license within hours of arrest. This prevents them from driving before they appear before the courts, which could take weeks in the traditional legal system. In the United States, virtual hearings are saving courts money by preventing the need to transport suspects from jail to the courtroom. Video chat is now used in courts of all sizes, and judges say that it helps move cases through the system faster.
Know of other jobs changed by video conferencing? Leave us a note in the comments below.