5-Minute Interview: Peter Cochrane
Pro AV sits down with Peter Cochrane, president of ConceptLabs.
a New Rochelle, NY-based firm that identifies new technology, business models, and people to serve as the basis for the development and deployment of clearly defined commercial applications and companies. Cochrane has been outspoken in questioning the quality of videoconferencing, bandwidth, and other technologies.
Pro AV:The Internet is becoming the highway for all forms of communication delivery — voice over IP (VoIP), videoconferencing, financial transactions, etc. Is Internet security exposing society to increasing risks?
Cochrane: I think the risk is actually going down. The Internet is far more secure than a fax machine or the mailbox at the end of your yard. People can always be silly with security, and if you choose to put a PC or a laptop onto the Internet without putting a firewall and virus protection on it, then of course there will be a problem. One of the great things about the Internet is that the sheer amount of data and communication makes it increasingly difficult to find anything really valuable. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as the press or people might think.
Pro AV:Do you think we’ll ever see fiber to the desktop?
Cochrane: Absolutely. Wire has had its day. We’ll start to install bandwidth and eventually tradeoff bandwidth against processing power. If you look at the bandwidth demand of individuals and organizations, it’s gone up exponentially and will continue to do so. We’ve been able to provide fiber to the home and office for less than copper since 1986; it’s just that people have chosen not to use it. All of the major network companies will have to invest in fiber to the home and office, or at least to a wireless hub very close to that home or office — if not in the home or office itself. I think the more wireless we use, the more fiber we’ll need. The trend is toward micro cells and pico cells where you have wireless broadband communication into a room, a building, a city, or onto a block.
Pro AV:In a reference to early 1960’s conceptualizations, you recently said, “Videoconferencing is crap; it was crap then, and it’s crap now.” What did you mean by that?
Cochrane: Here’s what we discovered in the 1960s. First, if you have a small screen, you can’t achieve eye contact or gaze awareness, and you can’t see any body language. You don’t get the voice coming out of the mouth. It comes from a little box at the side and doesn’t sound like a human being; it sounds like a telephone voice. Also, you have this changing scale where one person is a midget and the other person is a giant. The only time videoconferencing really works is when the people are equal size, you get eye contact and gaze awareness, you can see body language, the voice comes out of the mouth, the picture is high-definition, and it isn’t distorted. Once you do that, videoconferencing really starts to work. But it demands one thing — bandwidth — which hasn’t been provided in the past.
Pro AV:Do you think that “teleportation,” such as it was portrayed in “Star Trek,” will ever be possible?
Cochrane: In principle, any bag of carbon atoms could be used to recreate people at a different location. We don’t actually have to teleport the atoms; all we have to do is teleport the precise position of atoms to recreate a human being. I don’t see right now how we could do it, but that’s not to say that we won’t be able to do it in the future. We’ve only just decoded the genome, and are just starting on the protein. I’d say that in about another 50 years, we should have a good map of the human being. We’re going to need incredible amounts of computing power to do that, but every 10 years it goes up 1,000-fold. Decoding the genome was done far faster because of the computing power that no one could have imagined. The decoding of the protein stack is about 1,000 times more complex, but 10 years on, we’ll have the computing power to do that.