Over the past few days I've been playing with a very beautiful iSight camera and iChat AV. While none of this is particularly new the execution is better than I had expected.
iChat AV is Apple's IM client that has been extended to include real time audio and video. (note that it works for AIM and .Mac registered clients) The audio claims to work over dialup networks (I think it would be marginal), but the video requires broadband. I've had chats with people on three continents and the audio quality is what you would expect from a telephone bandwidth voice over the Internet service. I would love to see Apple add some higher bandwidth audio codecs to improve sound quality over regular telephony,
The camera is a very impressive piece of work. The microphone array is hidden in the camera body and does a great job - I have seen quite a few conference phones that aren't as good as this (I know the guy who did the microphones for this and he is deservedly famous). The microphone array is so good that I would claim the camera is easily worth the premium over competing firewire webcams based on this alone.
Picture quality is quite good -- amazingly good if you can tweak the camera parameters (a few third party applications allow this, but not iChat AV -- at least at this point).
I'm not a great fan of video telephony (I've been using it in one form or another since the mid 80s), but this is good enough for many purposes and is amazingly easy to use (I haven't seen anything else that comes close). It would be great for a traveling parent (assuming the hotel's access isn't over firewalled), geographically dispersed families, lovers, etc.
I would normally rant about the lack of camera controls in the client and the inclusion of only one telephone quality audio codec, but this is a beta with the release version six months off - something tells me it will get much better in later releases. At this point I would recommend the audio chat to anyone who uses OS X -- assuming you get a headset or an iSight for a better microphone than your Mac came with (and some Macs don't have a microphone), If you have broadband and can pony up $149 for the camera/microphone by all means do it -- it is one of the cooler toys I've used in awhile and will be great for chatting with my sister and brother in law in Denmark, my parents in Montana and several friends (hi Linda, Kip and Neal - and thanks for the calls!)