Summary of The Race to Fix Virtual Meetings

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The pandemic made working remotely essential, and the hybrid home and office set-up seems likely to emerge and endure. Now, new virtual meeting software aims to make online exchanges more like the spontaneous interactions among colleagues in shared spaces. Video games are inspiring the way start-ups and conferences are crafting solutions that may offer advantages over physical togetherness. As Yiren Lu reports in The New York Times Magazine, the future of online gatherings may reside in powerful virtual reality hardware that makes online gatherings more like the real thing. Lu shows one way the pandemic’s transformative effect will linger at work.

About the Author

Software engineer Yiren Lu writes about technology for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic and Wired.

 

Summary

New software solutions are emerging to address the professional and social needs of remote workers.

Working remotely has greatly reduced the social exchanges that are natural in a shared workspace. While productivity numbers may be up, that improvement comes at the cost of the casual, fortuitous interactions that spark creativity and create connections among co-workers who share the same space. Current offerings like Slack, Google Meet and Zoom don’t replicate the full spectrum of social exchanges that enrich a physical work environment or an in-person conference.

Now a growing number of start-up companies – including Gather.town, Kumospace, Pluto, Hopin and Run the World – are competing for customers in the arena of virtual meeting software that seeks to evoke compelling aspects of the face-to-face experience.

To replicate the social milieu of an office or conference, software can create the equivalents of auditoriums, meeting rooms, cocktail lounges and conversation nooks.

Current virtual meeting and communication software isn’t particularly flexible or spontaneous. It offers little opportunity for schmoozing, hanging out...


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