June 19, 2020

These startups want to make your Zoomin’ a little more human

Video conferencing isn’t going away anytime soon, so some startups are making lemonade out of lemons.

In the early days of quarantine, the magic of Zoom felt like a blessing. One click, and poof — all of your colleagues appeared in neat little rows.

By now, the spell has worn off. The Zoom exhaustion feels more like a curse — and a damn hard one to break.

So some startups are embracing a tried-and-true perseverance tactic.

When life hands you lemons, make freakin’ lemonade

Wired cataloged the cottage industry of companies and projects that are trying to make connections feel a little more like the Before Times.

Consider the very aptly named Online Town (population: everyone!). It mashes up a standard video-calling interface with a 2D world that looks like a game — you can wander in and out of conversations, “like Zoom and Pokémon combined.”

People’s voices get clearer as you approach — replicating the definitely not awkward at all sensation of trying to judge when it’s OK to jump into the conversation.

Prefer a little private gossip?

Shindig might be for you. It lets you wrangle 1k+ active participants (!) — and video chat or text privately with other people in the giant audience.

Last year, a VR-focused startup called High Fidelity (from the founder of Second Life) pivoted away from conquering the world one headset at a time. It now creates 3D audio spaces to mimic the sounds of real life.

If you need an exit strategy

It’s hard to come up with an excuse for ghosting on someone’s Zoom invite. If all else fails, try this tactic from Kathleen Walsh: “Go ahead and pretend your delivery order just arrived.”

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