Today, Microsoft announced ‘Together’ mode in Teams. A lot of us have been using videoconferencing software to a vastly increased degree since lockdown, so it’s not surprising to see a product focus on opportunistic features in what appears to be a long-term market behaviour change.
However, what’s interesting about this one is that it’s not really adding functionality, it’s adding humanity.
Working with Jeremy Bailenson, a Stanford University professor, Microsoft have responded to ‘video-fatigue’– a consequence of spending extended time on video calls. Bailenson’s research found that ‘togetherness’ was something humans not only desire but are used to, with physical work places being a key example of how humans connect through proximity.
Together mode is a relatively simple response to this complex human processing of proximity, and allows a umber of view types to situate participants in the call to a common virtual situation, whether that’s a coffee shop or an auditorium.
There are, of course, some nuances to this. In his study, Bailenson reviewed multiple solutions and found some interesting observations which become ‘obvious’ when paired with human understanding. For instance, this quote from the article speaks volumes about how we really respond to video conferences:
“For example, he says, if someone’s face looms large in your visual sphere in real life, it generally means you’re either about to fight or mate. So you’re alert and hyper-aware – reactions that are automatic and subconscious – and your heart rate goes up. And in video calls, there’s often a grid with multiple people’s faces filling the boxes. It’s a lot for your body’s nervous system to handle, he says.”
We’ll be trying it as soon as it’s available in UK, because frankly I couldn’t agree more strongly with Bailenson and the impacts of video fatigue.
View the video here: https://youtu.be/MGsNmYKgeTA