Oprah says one of America's favorite TV families introduced her to technology that she never imagined using…until now!
In 1962, George, Jane and other space-age characters on The Jetsons spoke to each other through linked video monitors, which closely resemble the Skype™ technology Oprah now uses on a regular basis.
Since 2005, millions have logged on to Skype to call people around the world…for free! From business associates to faraway family members, Skype users keep in touch using ever-evolving audio and video technology.
"It's the coolest thing ever," Oprah says. "[The Jetsons] called it televiewing at the time, and we call it Skyping. It's been one of the great things this year … being able to talk to viewers from their kitchens, from their living rooms, their bedrooms."
Over the years, more than 400 million people have joined the Skype community, and it continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Josh Silverman, Skype's chief executive officer, is logging on from London and says about 350,000 new users sign up every day.
Since it's free and easy to operate, Oprah uses this voice communications service to do everything from cook with viewers in their kitchens to tour celebrities' homes. "It's changing the way we do television," Oprah says.
To test the limits of this breakthrough technology, Oprah's embarking on an extreme Skype adventure of her own. "We're going to some places we've never gone before," Oprah says. "We could not have pulled this show off a few months ago. That's just how fast the technology is working."
Oprah's team has placed Skype cameras all over the world. Where's the first stop? A Best Buy in New York City's Midtown neighborhood.
From Chicago, Oprah and her audience can see New Yorkers browsing for electronics. In New York, shoppers get a surprise when Oprah pops up on a television screen in the store!
Ashraf, one surprised shopper, tells Oprah he's browsing in Best Buy until Pottery Barn opens. He's in the market for a gift for his mom.
A second Skype camera is stationed in London at Harrods, one of the world's largest department stores. "If you're ever in London, this is the store you want to go to," Oprah says.
Mohamed al-Fayed, the store's owner, stops by Oprah's Skype station to give a shopping report. It's just after 3 p.m. in England, and Mohamed says his 4.5-acre store is packed with tourists.
"Harrods is a Mecca," he says. "It's a great theater for shopping."
Inside this London landmark, shoppers can find everything from cigars and swimwear to toy trains and silk scarves.
Lorrie, one shopper from Vancouver, British Columbia, didn't come to Harrods in search of luxury goods or diamond jewelry. He walked through the doors with one item on his list—a pair of green socks!
"I wear green socks every Friday as a tribute to a great friend of mine," he says. "She's a co-worker of mine, and I love her to pieces."
As Oprah learns from Lorrie, green socks are pretty hard to find. "When you find them, you've got to buy them!" he says.
Every day, Oprah Show fans brave rainstorms, blizzards and summer sun to take photos in front of the Harpo Studios sign.
Today, a few unsuspecting fans get a special surprise when their Kodak moment is captured on Oprah's third Skype camera!
After these five women finish posing, Oprah invites them inside to be part of her studio audience.
While some Skypers use the software to build personal relationships, others log on for professional reasons. With millions of clients at her fingertips, Barbara, an artist from Toronto, Canada, has developed a new medium and broadened her business. She calls herself a "Skype sketcher."
Barbara takes photos of people through Skype and then uses these images to create their portraits. "I can go to people all over the world and sketch them," she says. "It's a brand new portrait format, and I just love it."
In just 45 minutes, Barbara turns a photo of Oprah into a portrait. "Thank you so much," Oprah says. "I am loving myself."
To take Skype to the next level, Oprah attempts to connect with people in some of the most remote places on earth, including the North Pole!
In Grise Fiord, Canada, North America's northernmost community, Janice braves snowy conditions and cold temperatures to Skype with Oprah…and she's not alone! Many of the town's 141 residents come out to watch the action.
Grise Fiord is 900 miles south of the North Pole, and on this May morning, Janice says the temperature is holding steady at minus 1 degree Fahrenheit. "It's a little cold all right," she says.
Most people can connect to Skype in a matter of minutes, but in remote areas like Grise Fiord, the process is a little more complicated. Janice says it took community members almost a week to get the video function working properly.
"We spanned the whole Canadian Arctic," she says. "It was a colossal team effort to do it, but we did it, and we're happy to do it."
Nothing comes easy in the North Pole. According to Janice, even basic necessities like milk and eggs are in short supply. "Everything comes in by air," she says. "We shop at our one local grocery store, which is open exactly 28 hours a week."
Next, Skype takes Oprah from one end of the earth to the other! Neal, a scientific researcher stationed in Palmer Station, Antarctica, logs on to share a glimpse of the Antarctic Ocean and its glaciers.
At Palmer Station, which is located just 2,000 miles north of the South Pole, Neal says he and 29 other scientists research everything from the upper atmosphere to the bottom of the ocean. When they're not working, he says there are a lot of ways to pass the time.
"We see whales, penguins, seals, all sorts of marine wildlife here," Neal says. "We can go boating. We can climb the glacier, and really, it's all about the community down here. We can just converse with each other and that's how we entertain ourselves the most."
Looking at the Antarctic glaciers, Oprah says she can't help but think of global warming. Dr. Bruce Sidell, one of Neal's colleagues who's worked near the South Pole for more than 20 years, says he's witnessed the effects firsthand.
"I have seen rather dramatic changes since I first started coming down in 1987," he says. "In 2002, a piece of ice about the size of the state of Rhode Island came off the Larsen Ice Shelf. So we're talking about a lot of frozen water here."
Though they don't normally use Skype, Neal says the researchers have been taking advantage of the technology this week. They're connecting with students across the country and teaching lessons via the Internet. "I'm so inspired by that idea of you all using Skype to go into the classrooms," Oprah says. "I think I can teach to my girls in Africa from Skype."
More than 37,000 feet above the California coastline, Mandy, a Virgin America flight attendant, helps Skype reach new heights. Using Gogo® Inflight Internet to connect to Skype, Mandy is able to chat with Oprah in Chicago.
Mandy says she's on her way from Seattle to Los Angeles with a plane full of 120 passengers. "I think right now we're right above San Francisco," she says.
In May 2009, Virgin America became the first airline to offer Internet service to every passenger.
From high in the sky to beneath the sea, Skype is going where it's never gone before! For the very first time, Navy Cmdr. John Sager logs on from inside a submarine.
"We're off the coast of Hawaii at periscope depth, Skyping off of our periscope," he says. "This is the first for any submarine. We're pretty proud that we'll be able to do this for you today."
Cmdr. Sager is the commander of the USS Louisville, affectionately known as "the slugger." For months at a time, Cmdr. Sager lives in this submarine with 146 other men. "Right now we're 60 feet—so about six stories—underwater," he says.
Since it's such tight quarters in the USS Louisville, Cmdr. Sager says some men sleep in the torpedo room. "Guys actually sleep between torpedoes down here," he says. "We make use of all the extra space that we have."
Bathroom space is also limited. Cmdr. Sager says the whole crew shares three bathrooms. "One of the bathrooms has three toilets," he says. "The other ones each have about one or two."
For this reason, Cmdr. Sager says the Navy doesn't allow women to serve on submarines. "They continue to look at that policy and evaluate it, but right now, we don't have any women on board, based on habitability and the personal space that everybody has."
Even wine tastings are going high-tech thanks to Skype! Randall Grahm is Skyping in from the Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz, California, to host a tasting for Oprah, Virgin America passengers and Josh Silverman.
"One of the interesting points is that wine really manifests differently depending on the circumstances and the physical location," Randall says. "I think the wine is going to taste a little bit different in Chicago, a little bit different in Santa Cruz and certainly a little bit different on the airplane."
First, the group swirls and sips a 2008 Ca' Del Solo Albarino, a white wine from a vineyard in the Salinas Valley. Then, they try Bonny Doon's flagship wine, Le Cigare Volant, which means "the flying cigar."
For the finale, Randall moves on to a dessert wine called Le Vol des Anges, or "the angel's flight."
For some, Skype is more than technology—it's a life-changing invention. When Ed Gallagher developed a retinal disease eight years ago, his eyesight began to fade. Eventually, the disease left him completely blind. "I thought, 'Well, my life is pretty much at an end,'" he says.
Determined to remain independent and active, Ed turned to technology. He began wearing a camera that's hooked up to Skype. The camera also has an earpiece that allows him to talk to assistants who guide his every move.
Now, Ed is able to ski, sail and ride a bike again. "I just discovered true freedom of movement that I haven't experienced in the last 10 years," he says. "The best thing I've done in my life."
Since Skype started gaining popularity a few years ago, Josh says he's heard many stories that touch his heart. When one teenage girl got sick, he says she was able to finish 11th grade via Skype from her hospital bed.
This voice communication system may be part of his profession, but at home, he says he and his children use Skype for personal reasons.
"I picked up and moved my wife and children eight time zones away from their grandparents," Josh says. "I can't tell you what a meaningful impact it's had for my family. My kids still have a rich, real relationship with their grandparents where they get to see them and talk to them every week. Their grandparents can read them stories. My kids can show their art projects."