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Video conferencing refers to conducting a video conference or video teleconference in which two or more sets of hardware and software interact while simultaneously transmitting and receiving video and audio signals from two or more geographic locations. Video conferencing may also involve sharing documents, various presentation materials, whiteboards, flip charts and similar group presentation visual aids. A telepresence system is most often used at the corporate or enterprise level and represents high-end video conferencing systems. Video conferencing is differentiated from video phone calls, which serve individuals as opposed to a conference. Video conferencing is also known as online video conferencing and PC video conferencing.
Video conferencing was established as early as the invention of the television, and consisted of two closed-circuit television systems using coaxial cable or radio transmission. NASA used video conferencing during the first manned space flight in 1961, with two radiofrequency links, one in each direction. TV news channels used the same technology for reporting from distant locations; thereafter, trucks with mounted satellite dishes provided mobile links for video conference transmissions. However, the technology was very expensive, so it was not used for business, education or telemedicine until many years later. By the 1980s, digital telephony became available using compressed video and audio transmissions. But it was not until 1984 that the first video conferencing systems were sold commercially by PictureTel Corp. In the 1990s, the expensive proprietary equipment that was previously required was replaced by new, standards-based technology for video conferencing, which became available to the general public at a much more reasonable cost. IP-based video conferencing also became possible around this time. The Winter Olympics of 1998 in Nagano, Japan, used the technology to broadcast part of the opening ceremonies across five continents in almost real time. In the 2000s, video conferencing became available at reasonable costs to any location with an Internet connection.