Move Over, Zoom. This Magic Interface Is The Future Of Videoconferencing

from Fast Company

Tens of millions of people are working from home. Zoom use has exploded as we’ve turned to video chats—even though they’re exhausting. And whenever we do go back to our offices, we probably won’t all go back. To enable social distancing, more people will work in shifts, and remotely.

So, do we need to settle for the Zoom-from-the-couch home office we have today? Not necessarily! The design firm Argodesign has created a concept called the Square. It’s an artificial window, created from an LCD screen that goes on the wall next to your desk. When you raise the shade, you can see a coworker, or two, working right there next to you. You can strike up a conversation, or ignore them. You can gossip, or hold a productive meeting. Just like a real office.

“We focused on not just the availability of telecommuting but the feel of it,” says Mark Rolston, founder and chief creative officer of Argodesign.

The Square is just an idea, rather than a real product, but it’s grounded in established technology. The frame hides four small cameras, which combine their images to create a 3D version of you rather than a flat Zoom frame. That allows for far more immersion than your standard screen. As you look at the screen, it tracks your gaze, shifting its perspective through the parallax effect.

More here.

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26 Responses to Move Over, Zoom. This Magic Interface Is The Future Of Videoconferencing

  1. Colleen O'Keefe April 30, 2020 at 2:57 pm #

    This article, though very futuristic, seems at the same time to be a very real possibility. My first thought upon seeing what this product would look like was that it looked like something from a futuristic episode of Black Mirror, a show that tries to analyze the potential outcomes of using new technology. This show usually shows how things could go wrong in a very unsettling and realistic way, which is likely why my initial though was that something is probably going to go wrong with this product as well. Upon further reading, I felt that the creators of the product definitely had the right idea of wanting to give people who can only telecommute the feeling of being in an office and making connections with people. Though obvious good intentions, the idea of this human emotion being conveyed by this technology feels a bit concerning; can having a relationship with a coworker that you never actually see in person ever be the same as the one that we build in person? How can you build a bond with them if you can’t do non-work-related things with them like going to get lunch together or going somewhere after work? For me, being set in an online classroom, one where I can still see the faces of my classmates, has made me feel more disconnected from my peers than ever. There are no opportunities for students to bond over the trivial things that they have in common, like not wanting to do an assignment or complaining over a test grade. While I understand that this platform says that it intends to allow for the gossip that can bring coworkers together, I also feel that because it is a technology platform, people will not feel comfortable saying the same things that they would if they wanted to gossip in person because of the fear of it being recorded and someone finding out that you were talking bad about the boss. While I think this is a great way to make the working from home situation better, I do believe that it will be very difficult to find an technology solution that can truly make up for the in-person connections that we are now lacking as a result of social distancing.

  2. Tim Foo Siam April 30, 2020 at 3:18 pm #

    Being stuck at home working on our laptops has sadly become the new norm. Zoom has pretty much become an essential part of our lives, whether it be for work, school, or to talk to your family and friends. Although Zoom has been extremely effective and allowed for work to partially resume and for classes to finish, it is far from the real thing. We are missing out on the physical presence of our coworkers and employees and emotions and non-verbal gestures are not as easily understood through a 2-D video screen. Enter Square. Square is a videoconferencing device that takes it to the next level. Square is a large video screen that acts similar to a shade. When you pull the shade down, the device is off, but when you lift the shade you get to see other people who are using Square in your workplace. This device looks like it has a specific niche for office work spaces, as a form of supplement. However, I don’t think it will replace Zoom significantly. The only way that I see that people use Square over Zoom is if an individual’s workplace provides them with it, as stated in the Fast Company article.
    I do think that it is a particularly interesting device because of how it works. The Square’s four cameras allow for a more three dimensional perspective of your coworkers. This makes the work experience more personal between coworkers because you can fully see their bodies and any nonverbal gestures they might be giving you. In the article, Fast Company mentioned that remote work has had a mental impact on individuals, a byproduct of not being able to physically interact with others. Thus, the Square would help with this aspect of work.
    After reading this article, I don’t know how to feel about the Square. At first I was thinking, “this isn’t practical, it probably costs a fair amount”. But after reading the full article, it is really hard to talk down on this product. Since the device is similar to a 4K television with multiple cameras, it could sell close to, or slightly higher than, a 4K TV (roughly $500-$1000). The only thing that I could possibly say negatively about it, in my opinion, is that it is not a necessity. I feel like the only way that someone would have a Square at home is if their workplace provided it, as I mentioned before, or if they felt like indulging on the product to avoid dealing with more Zoom calls.

  3. Morgan Mooney May 1, 2020 at 10:43 am #

    Zoom meetings have become a new way for all of us to hold meetings and to see our friends and family in larger gatherings. The social distancing from the COVID-19 virus has led many to stay into the confines of their own home. People are not able to go out and eat, throw parties, or hold graduation ceremonies for the graduates of the class of 2020. Zoom has allowed schools to still remain viable and allow students to continue their studies. The only problem in zoom is that it can be exhausting and there is not a true connection between people that you have in real life, real-time. Person to person interaction. This can cause students to lose all their motivation and determination and cause them to get lost more easily in the class. Zoom also puts a strain on us mentally and causes us to become more exhausted by having to engage our cognitive senses in telepresence. Chief creative technologist Jared Ficklin said that “There have been a lot of reports lately about the energy effort and stress to engage our cognitive senses in telepresence. It’s exhausting. One reason I’d postulate is that you’re missing the nonverbal feedback.” This means that the square could have us going in a positive way that could boost productivity for all and give us an additional morale boost to help get through these tough times.
    The concept from Argodesign, called “the square”, is about to revolutionize the game with this idea. It creates the work office area that many are beginning to miss at this point. It allows for people to still be isolated, but still feel part of a team and allow for one on one communication or have multiple people on screen and hold a meeting of some sorts. This really has multiple uses and can be incorporated in business in any way they want. They are also saying how these may not be that expensive and how companies may be giving these to their employees as a sort of perk which could help boost productivity in their employees.

  4. Austin Minogue May 1, 2020 at 3:24 pm #

    The idea of futuristic products used to come as a surprise to people and some would think it was ridiculous, now, especially in these times it is not even a second thought. Innovation is what is keeping the world together and has been thrusted to the forefront of everyone’s lives. So, when it comes to the articles Square, the new video chatting screen that creates 3D images, it comes of no surprise to me. It is described as something more than just video chat that services like Zoom now provide. The ability to provide more of a simulation feel with 3D images rather than the flat image of regular video chat would stimulate us and allow the same feelings of being in the office with our coworkers. Eventually, we will start to see people going back to work but not in the same way that we did in the past, we will still have people working from home and maybe going to the office only when necessary. It allows us to get a glimpse at the future of business, and to see how things can be done differently. Working from home may not be a bad thing especially with new technologies coming about such as the Square. Even though it is not a thing, yet it is a look into what our future holds especially how business can be done. Rather than going to the office everyday of the week we can walk into our home office slide up the curtain on our square and begin work with our coworkers. The Square if it comes to fruition can be part of a company’s package to their employees, the employee can receive a Square instead of an office and be able to do all their work from their house. Saving a lot of money on the expenses that come with operating a functioning office environment.

  5. Roger McCurdy III May 1, 2020 at 5:07 pm #

    Technology is developing at a very fast rate. I think most people have seen some form of holographic communication in television or movies (examples include Star Wars, Avengers: Infinity War and other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and countless more) and in this state of pandemic, this future is coming closer than most initially thought. While the square is not exactly that, it is still a step in that direction, especially from Zoom and MS Teams. There are practicality concerns with Square, which is admittedly more of an idea than a product. Mainly, that most people already have a device capable of running a program like Zoom, and would be less likely to go out and spend money on a communication platform that only brings a bit more immersion to the workplace.

    I think as the technology for this concept and other ones similar to it, this eventually will be incorporated into business setting, although not first at home. The first implementation that I can think of is a meeting between different offices in different cities or countries that can be done with only 2 screens available to the whole office. Eventually a product like this will be a household product for family gatherings, and will be incorporated into work. I do not have a predictive model for when all of this will take place, but I think it will take a while.

    Another concern that I have personally is human interaction. Any platform like this will be withheld to premeditated meetings and will limit day to day interactions that come with working in a physical office. The people at the head of major businesses likely do not care because they can save more money by abandoning physical offices, while also reducing the risk for a pandemic to affect their work efficiency. Still, people are social and need human interaction, both in a physical sense, and just friendly conversation. If this is the future then we have to adapt to find other ways to socialize with others.

  6. Philip John Mabalatan May 1, 2020 at 6:57 pm #

    The pandemic has certainly shifted the landscape around how business can be conducted. Prior to the forceful transition to online platforms, the use of online video communication was used occasionally instead of being commonplace. However, due to COVID-19, it has pushed operations online. Because of the over usage of such programs like ZOOM and Microsoft Teams, it’s reasonable why we may want an alternative. Humans being the fickle beings we are, we work to improve our experience and create the next big thing to capitalize on our situation. Enter: the Square. The square serves to be substitute, if not that, an improvement upon how we conduct our workplace business.
    In a home work environment, the experience can get dull after doing it the same way over and over again. The Square works to remedy some of that by supplying some digital social interaction. This is done through the design of the Square which makes it seem more like they’re actually there. For people who live by themselves, this can help improve their mood by reinserting the feel of social interaction. I think it is very important during our current situation because mental health is something we should actively be working to preserve, because this quarantine can certainly get to us.
    However, this technology doesn’t necessarily have to be applied in a work context, it can simply be applied in the same way any video call is used, namely communication with friends and family. For people who have to self-quarantine, they surely don’t get to see many of their loved ones so technology like this can help to fix that. But also, this quarantine has also revealed some things about communications regarding our drive to improve it. As much as we work to improve our experience, it is only something to bide our time until we get to experience the real thing. Even in the article it uses such language like “convincing” and “simulation”, showing that this is not the real thing. But in a time like this, we will also be willing to take whatever we can get since we’re not able to go out and see for ourselves.

  7. Matthew Pavlik May 1, 2020 at 7:17 pm #

    So it seems that the only options for a virtual reality work environment are headsets or squares… nice. The idea is definitely innovative, at least it is not the first thing I would have thought of, and I bet it would not even be in a niche market: there could be both home and work applications from meetings to “family visits” and more. This is actually pretty cool, especially since it is affordable to a point where companies could provide it for home setups. In the 2000’s, people were rewarded with offices. In the 2020’s, they get a complimentary square setup. I am joking about it now, but there is a possibility that my first house has a designated Square room — and I am sure today’s teens would love to go from Juul pods to Square pods (last joke). The notes about the inability to convey nonverbals and us subconsciously losing our minds trying to understand what someone is conveying just from their face and words (and the face is a stretch in low bandwidth environments) are very real issues with Zoom right now, and having this 3D environment would probably be the closest thing to real life that we could do. I would argue that this is better than VR since I cannot see a way that the VR headsets now evolve into something like this, or it would be more expensive because you would need a system powerful enough to run whatever it would even become (either an application that looks like a videogame which is way too much work compared to this alternative). Back to Square, this seems like such a great choice. If the last couple of months have taught people anything, hopefully they have learned that people need to be social in a work-from-home world and this might be the way to go.

  8. Kassandra Griffin May 1, 2020 at 7:21 pm #

    The Square seems like a great idea in helping mitigate the mental damages that have resulted from the stay at home orders enacted throughout the United States. It is a known fact that suicidal thoughts have been associated with social isolation and loneliness- which is exactly what we are required to do now. Granted, it is for a good cause in preserving human life, but the social distancing we have been partaking in has left people stuck in their homes in fear of being exposed to the coronavirus. Not everyone lives with their family, many people live alone, so staying in their homes for months is very damaging to their mental health. Of course there are remote alternatives, but physical interaction is vital in order to preserve human health. The square definitely does a great job of allowing people to feel “normal” while still being cautious of the virus. it is important to remember that some people only interact with others at their workplace, so it is not until they are stripped of it that they begin to feel the negative impacts on their mental state.

    Not only could people not leave their homes, but state parks and golf courses were closed as well. Fortunately, they are being opened again tomorrow, but this removal of nature rehabilitation was quite dangerous as well. Yes, it was essential in lessening the spread of the virus, but it also made people feel trapped and alone- both common traits of depression or anxiety. I am glad that parks and some outdoor activities are opening, but it is important that we not get too ahead of ourselves. The curve has flattened and we are seeing the first signs toward regression of the curve, but if everyone runs outside for fresh air and forgets about the importance of social distancing then the number of cases will easily spike up again. The Square, if developed and carried out, will definitely be a good reason for people to grow accustomed and okay with being indoors.

  9. Kevin Orcutt May 1, 2020 at 7:26 pm #

    I think the idea of trying to actually simulate your work environment is a great idea in the way Argodesign wants to do it. By being able to scan your environment and you it can create you in 3D and give a great picture to people that may be in your workplace. There are a couple points of constructive criticism that I would like to address about this product that almost instantly came to my mind after reading this. The first being that this is essentially Zoom regardless of what they say. It is the same type of meeting and interfacing app, just on a larger scale because it is on a television now. Now, while I think that in this situation bigger is in fact better because it makes it easier to see, I just do not think that it is venturing off into the right direction. What I mean by this is that they are trying to explore the wrong areas. Why base your company off of being a better zoom when they can develop what the big selling point of this product is, the camera that can produce this 3D image of you and your coworkers. The price of this huge square I think is a major turn off for many people. If this company were to just focus on making the camera compatible with your television, they can draw a much larger crowd for this idea. This will come at a cheaper cost to the consumer and can be marketed as a 3D interface for their own website or even used on Zoom if Argodesign wants to do that. This is an absolutely wonderful idea, but I think the appeal of being able to pull up and down a shade is not enough to justify spending a small fortune on it. This will also be another huge edition to their house that they must find a large wall space for which most people might not have unless they rearrange half of their room or home office. I think this is a wonderful idea, but they are marketing the product wrong.

  10. Trevor Olivas May 1, 2020 at 7:44 pm #

    Most people on the globe are stuck inside their houses as a method of practicing social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19. As a result, traditional means of communication such as the classic in-person meeting have not been used as of late. You may have heard the name “Zoom University” on the internet. This term is used in reference to the massive switch by universities to online remote learning via the video conferencing app Zoom. However, colleges are not the only institutions utilizing these online application services. Companies all across the United States in various industries have implemented it as a means of communication. Zoom incorporates many popular tools in its app such as Google Hangouts, Tandem HQ, ScheduleOnce, Mailplane, Vizy, and Plezi software. The video conferencing app is highly sought after compared to other videoconferencing services like Skype or Cisco WebEx. Corporations have even taken developmental steps to advance their capabilities through Zoom. Argodesign recently innovated a concept called the Square that gives a more in-person aspect to the app. Consumers are attracted to the Zoom application because of the high quality in video, sound, and speed that it provides users. Additionally, it can be downloaded on your mobile device via the App Store or Google Play so that you are able to access a conference from anywhere at any time. Based upon states consistently delaying the reopening of public spaces and nonessential businesses, these same companies will potentially have to keep using this service for a longer time period than initially thought. Zoom and these companies should work together in order to increase the capabilities of zoom based upon the user. College students should be able to access PowerPoint, graphing calculators, and Microsoft Word through Zoom in order to get a more hands-on learning experience besides visual. Business Professionals should be able to access tools such as Microsoft Excel and other tools that are relevant in their particular industry through the app. Soon these types of consumers will force Zoom to innovate and advance their platform’s abilities as so many people rely upon it. Ultimately, this period of time can result in big developments for Zoom and a lot of profit to be made.

  11. Christopher McGowan May 1, 2020 at 8:31 pm #

    I did not hear of Zoom until after classes had gone remote in most of the country, most of the time if I ever were to video chat I would use Facetime, but since all classes have moved online most public schools and Universities have had there students install Zoom, this is a video chatting application that allows teachers to teach the class via video chat and are easily able to share screens. While it seems like most of the Universities are having their students use Zoom, on the other hand at Seton Hall we use BlackBoard Collaborate which is like zoom but has some differences in terms of the interface. This has me and many other people wondering if this is really the best option for remote learning or working, this article shows that there are much better options when it comes to remote communication applications. There is a design firm that is ahead of its time, and has created a concept called the “Square”, It is an artificial window that is created from an LCD screen that you place on the wall that has a retractable shade, it allows you to see someone else in your network. It seems like a large TV screen that allows to have video communication without any HUD or interface, it’s supposed to give the feel of an actual classroom or office space. Its pretty neat how the device is designed as the LCD screen had four hidden cameras in the frame that will combine their images to create a 3-D version of yourself, the cameras also track your movement and will move in accordance to the user. I thought this was very cool as it could actually make you feel like your in the room with the person or people on the other end, but in reality this seems very expensive for the average worker or student, I dont see this type of technology actually catching on and taking the place of Zoom in being so mainstream, but I could see large companies supplying its corporate employees with these systems to install in there homes if remote working continues in the U.S., I would hope one day soon we can have access to better remote video chatting apps then Zoom, even though Zoom does make it very easy to connect with my classmates. Everyone have these large LCD screens with cameras in there home would be nice but its just not very practical as things like Zoom are free and get the job done just as well, but with that said one day I can see large corporation’s having these “Square” type LCD screens all around a corporate office.

  12. CJ Happ May 1, 2020 at 9:25 pm #

    Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic and the beginning of the quarantine, schools and workplaces across the world saw the inability to hold classes and meetings in person. This poses the problem of not being able to reach your student and employees on a daily basis. But these same teachers, bosses, employees, and students who were robbed of a way of working and learning have now been introduced to Zoom and other platforms that have allowed them to reach others anywhere in the world that has a stable WIFI connection. This has also made some bosses question the necessity of some of there workers and some universities questions the necessity of their in-person classes. However, Argo design has created which is in essence a virtual office space. You place an artificial window next to your desk and if you lift a shade you can see your coworker and you talk with him productively or gossip, all the potions you would normally have in an office in real life. This is sure to make waves in the way people perceive education and workspace. It allows you to be able to work from home and not have to bother going into work or school. This could substantially drop the cost of schooling and also could see employers having less costs which could lead to either an increase or decrease in workers. This is all heading toward the development of functioning virtual reality in which you can operate as you do in school or your office in real life but from your home instead. The COVID-19 pandemic might have indirectly caused the increased innovation of virtual reality across the world.

  13. John McKenna May 1, 2020 at 9:33 pm #

    Zoom has been a controversial staple in how many businesses and school are continuing work during quarantine. Because of it’s relatively easy to use interface and it’s prominence already in many businesses, it has become one of the main ways students access their class and how workers meet with colleagues. But there have been recent innovations when it comes to how we interact with eachother on the digital realm, such as a new concept called Square. Square is described as an artificial window that is actually a screen, and is promoted as keeping you more engaged in work by making you feel like youre actually there, With the screen being able to show you another coworker working next to you. The company has tried to recreate the feeling of the office, by allowing you to interact with coworkers more naturally on a better, more specific device. While the aims of the project are noble indeed and in theory could work, the reality is that most people don’t have the resources to afford a commodity like this during the current economic climate. People have already used their stimulus checks paying a fraction of their bills, and without any clear indication of when the economy is reopening or how things are going to be, it’s a big ask to have people spend a thousand dollars atleast on a brand new monitor. This has been a common issue throughout the pandemic, with many companies and even colleges assuming that there is some baseline that everyone lives at in terms of living conditions and internet access, which is simply not the case. To be fair, Square is just a theory, and is looking towards a more future oriented model which aims to make this technology cheap, easy to access and easy to use. Many don’t like the idea of their office space invading their home so much. The adversity to change is the main factor that’s preventing something like this from jumping into widespread use.

  14. Connor Strack May 1, 2020 at 9:51 pm #

    Zoom has undoubtedly changed the way we view collaborative efforts and allows us to accomplish group projects in ways we would have not even considered a few years ago. Video conferencing has proved that it can be just as efficient as physical meetings if done correctly, so the race to perfect the software that could become the next standard for remote work is on. Zoom has showed us the efficacy of the conventional software, but has some issues that are indicative of the need for further innovation to usher in a completely new way of viewing remote work that is just as productive as in person. The Square that is being discussed in the article is an excellent example of this valuable insight. The functionality and aesthetic of the technology is nothing short of revolutionary, and plugs some of the holes in the zoom platform that have become problematic to accomplishing business goals. I think responsibility is a minor issue with remote work that some employees have slacked off on since they have the protection of being behind a computer screen. This device allows for a designated workspace which requires people to change their mindset and work as if they are in the physical building. This also would engage them much more than the current system where working out of your bed in your underwear has become a normal practice. Holding meetings where you can all see on another through a tv-like display would allow people to focus more on the communication with on another that effective meetings require, because you are essentially forced to pay attention and cannot browse the internet while your boss is trying to have a conversation with you. Part of the appeal to me is in the cost of this device that is being reported not to exceed $1,000 and seems like a fairly valuable investment especially for those in upper level positions. There are some concerns with privacy, as there always will be with new tech, but I think the room for improvement to remote work far outweighs the concerns that can be easily fixed.

  15. S Warner May 20, 2020 at 2:21 pm #

    Zoom has become a major key in the success of universities and workplaces during the pandemic. This video communication software allows professors to hold classes, companies to hold meetings and people to be able to communicate while social distancing. This software has basically become essential with the people who cannot go to work and are forced to work from home. Although it helps many workers communicate and get things done, it lacks the human contact and emotion that one would receive from being in the actual workspace. Argodesign created a concept called Square which is basically and artificial window that allows workers at home to feel like they are at work. This concept is different from zoom as it is a 3D version of video communication and it can be closed and opened as if it’s a window. It seems as though this concept will not make an appearance for a lump sum of time, but when it does it will make a big difference in the work life of those that stay home. Many workers that stay home lack the human contact that they would receive within their work spaces so I believe that these squares would help diminish that and allow the workers to be more efficient. With the pandemic at hand, I think that this concept should be pushed into creation sooner rather than later to avoid some problems that arise from working at home. This concept is a little on the pricier side, but if companies can afford to give some of the higher positions these then it could allow more people to work from home. I believe that after the pandemic goes away that a lot more people should have the opportunity to work from home, if it is possible, which can deplete office costs and prevent the spread of sickness within the office. Social distancing should be an everyday thing, not just a disease situation and I think that square would be a great help to that as well. Overall, I am excited to see if this concept makes it to the creation stage and is able to be released.

  16. E Farrell May 20, 2020 at 5:19 pm #

    Zoom has become the most efficient and effective way in which people communicate to one and other no matter if it is through school, work, or even just other family members to be able to interact and connect with one and other virtually. Zoom has become the new societal norm during this pandemic as this is the safest way to be able to communicate with others without being near them. This video conferencing system has become a way to hold class lectures, hold virtual meetings with employees, as well as other features, however it does not give off the same interaction as one would feel if they were actually talking to someone else in person. People thrive through being able to interact and connect with each other, while Zoom allows one to be able to interact with professors, employers, etc., it does not provide the same feeling and connection one has with others in person. While Zoom has been used by a majority of people worldwide, a company called Argodesign came up with a new form of technology called, Square, which is a way to be able to interact with others, but makes it feel and look as if the interaction was happening in person. Square allows workers to feel as if you were actually within your workspace office, through a virtual shade in which one opens up and they can see and hear other workers as if they were right next to you. This allows workers to be able to pull up the shade while they are doing work so that they can virtually see the other employees through a 3D display and then when the workday is over they can put down the blind as if they are leaving work for the day. While Zoom and Square are similar in the way that you can see and interact with each other, however, Zoom does not provide the same virtual reality of one feeling like that are actually within the workplace, which Square provides. While Square has still not been developed yet, it is an idea that could be introduced within any amount of time, while everyone is at home doing digital learning and working from home. However, once a program such as Square or another system of similar thought is created and implemented, it will make working from home seem for as if you are at the workplace. If conditions such as social distancing and working from home are still implemented in the future, having a form of 3D virtual reality workspaces from one’s home will make it seem more realistic and not have one get bored of just working through Zoom, as it becomes repetitive as one just gets in front of the video conference talking to a laptop, instead of having a real workplace feel. Square is a great investment, while the price could go up to $1,000, in the end, it could be worth it especially during our current pandemic, as it allows employees to work from home but still have the same interactions they would in person at the workplace, which allows a more effective style of work. While Square could have concerns, as every virtual conferencing site does, it could be a major improvement and allow for a more effective work from home environment.

  17. CG May 21, 2020 at 6:54 pm #

    In a time in which society has been asked to keep a distance from one another, including friends, family, and other loved ones. Society has been urged to “stay at home” unless for emergent needs. For months now, individuals have been unemployed, some are working from home, some are out on the front line. Students have been conducting the remainder of the school year online. This is all possible due to the advanced technology we fortunately are in surplus of. However, everyone is yearning for the days we took granted, the days we could go outside without a second thought, where we could chit chat with strangers, and were able to keep work at work and school at school. Nowadays, everything is conducted from home. Home which once was a safe haven, a break from any and all adult responsibilities, now is your office, or your library.

    Unlike, an office or library, there is very minimal contact with others, any contact exists mainly amongst friends or family you were cohabitating with prior to the global epidemic. Technology stepped us for us in these hard times, through platforms likes FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom, and plenty others, we’ve been able to stay connected and maintain involvement in one another’s lives. Most workers and students have been utilizing Zoom nonstop, and at the end of it, for being in contact with others, it seldom brings the joy of connecting with people in real life. As crucial and vital as Zoom has been to continue working from home and studying from home, it inflicts a fatigue like no other. The act itself of participating in a Zoom conference, is not physically taxing. I believe the reason behind why fatigue or mild depression sets in after a Zoom meeting is, it enforces the stay at home requirement. Of course, everyone gets sad or upset while self-isolating at home, it goes against human nature. Zoom meetings, ideally should be a mood increaser, but during the meeting, subconsciously its embedded that this is the only way to connect to with loved ones at the given moment. I think that’s what is taxing about Zoom conferences. This article gives us hope, that another new advancement in technology might bring us closer. If this product is truly capable of simulating the close-contact nature, it will be a game changer. Being able to see your meeting partner, in 3-d, potentially make eye contact, and be able to detect non-verbal communication would be a great mood booster, and replace the aforementioned negative subconscious with a positive conscious. I believe the Square, can help separate work from home while working at home, provide a higher quality of virtual meetings, and help reduce subpar moods brought upon by social distancing during this time.

  18. Stephanie A May 21, 2020 at 7:49 pm #

    Zoom has become almost an essential part of most people’s days, whether it be for work, class, or personal matters. It is a great way to see someone or many people’s faces while talking to them. Almost every University or College had started using Zoom when remote learning started, as well as many companies when employees were forced to work from home. It is one of the first things people think about when they wake up. They are worried about missing their next Zoom meeting or excited to get to chat with some friends. Square is a very good creation that will help people who work in offices, feel like their coworkers are sitting right next to them. I do not think that Square will ever fully replace Zoom due to the price. The price of Square is between $500-$1000, while Zoom is completely free and accessible to anyone with a computer, tablet or smartphone. While it will never be the same as actually being in person, Square could help people feel better about working from home. Square is a unique device because of the fact that shows images in 3-D, rather than a flat image of an individual’s face. The camera that your coworker will have set up in their home, will move as your eyes move and will give employees a very similar feeling as if they were in person and looking at their coworkers.

    Being that I am a student in college, I would have to say that while Zoom is a great way for teachers to communicate with their students, it has also created a divide between people. Humans need social interaction and would receive this from going to class and interacting with several classmates and their professors. Now, we are just looking at each other’s faces over cameras. In my opinion, Square could be a great way for individuals to feel more like they are face to face with their coworkers.

    Personally, I believe that some people may not like this device, mainly because they would then have to get dressed in professional clothing to sit in their home all day. Some people prefer to wear comfy clothes while on Zoom meetings, because they know that the camera only shows a specific part of them and their home. I think the main problem that will occur with individuals purchasing Square, is ultimately the price. If companies are willing to buy a device for each of their employees, I believe that more people would be willing to use it, but I do not think that many employees will want to buy it themselves for $500-$1000.

  19. Christy Delleh May 22, 2020 at 11:47 am #

    Every employee’s desire is to have a work-life balance. This provides opportunities to incorporate some personal life errands such as doctor appointments, child care, and emergency as well as other chaos. With the emergence of telecommuting or working from home, many organizations have thought about the need to provide work-life balance to their employees. This has promoted a great working and productive working environment and most of all job satisfaction. We find that people have grown to love their company and job.

    Technology has been a great factor in work-life balance by providing a platform for people to connect virtually via video and audio conferences. Nowadays, we have Zoom, WebEx, Kinetic, and many more providing these great services. Employees can now interact with others from the comfort of their homes. Meetings, interviews, and informal chats are held via these video conferencing platforms. Some video meetings have policies as per the organization such as mandatory video share or audio control. For this, some employees feel regulated in their homes because of the restrictions. For example, if a person is at home, they may not need to dress up or even groom or do make-up.

    Mark Wilson discusses the new dimensions technology of video conference which is more than just video but rather the feel and real-time interaction. Interesting to know such technology existence because, with other traditional video calls, there is no personal touch when interacting with co-workers. As noted by Wilson, “The frame hides four small cameras, which combine their images to create a 3D version of you rather than a flat Zoom frame. That allows for far more immersion than your standard screen”. Having technology is one thing but being able to modify it to suit users’ preferences is where Square is pushing for. The feel of having a 3D effect when interacting with co-workers is great.

  20. Rajat Sinha May 22, 2020 at 5:46 pm #

    The premier video-conferencing software, Zoom, has facilitated the needs of a variety of different consumers to both connect and communicate for personal and professional purposes during lockdown. The software has been successful in completing its primary objective of communicating virtually. Many people from around the world can communicate at-home with each other for various purposes such as: to reunite with family, to learn in a simulated classroom environment, or to conduct business overseas. However, while the software has undoubtedly assisted many people, it still has its shortcomings as a result of various technical limitations such as user burnout or fatigue in use of the product due to poor visual quality. Square, a new video-conferencing software idea designed by Argodesign, has brought the experience of video-conferencing to an entirely different level by an ability to merge their technology together with smart television. Square has simulated real life person-to-person interaction through their software by using proper 1:1 aspect ratios of its users through easily-divisible and geometrically-symmetrical windows. Not only that, Square has enhanced this experience by using a moving camera to track eye-movement by simulating the aspect of eye-contact in real-life conversation. Simply put, Square will allow for a more “face-to-face” like experience for users with 3-D visual aesthetics and other simulated reality technology. However, this new company still hasn’t resolved the current issues of security and privacy that exist in the market. Users still can’t be certain that conversations and sensitive data are not vulnerable to outside influence.

    Primarily, one example of the various privacy and security risks posed by such video-conferencing and video-security devices is the lack of an enhanced logical security protocol surrounding Amazon’s Ring home security system, a device was easily manipulated by outside hackers who used the lack of firewalls and other protective measures to their advantage to gain access into the daily lives of Ring’s customers. Amazon’s Ring home security system is a wireless home security device that allows the homeowner to use a variety of cameras located on doorbells as well as, in rooms inside and outside the house to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic from their residence. Its purpose is to keep the house safe and secure from the constant threat of burglary and/or the occasional damage of floods and other emergency disasters. However, the device hasn’t been performing its usual duties up to the quality-standard expected of a product licensed and distributed by a large multimillion dollar corporation such as Amazon. From California to Alabama, many homeowners have filed lawsuits against Amazon’s Ring device after many nationwide incidents of hackers gaining access to the device and trying to lure children away from their household, as well as, verbally berate the homeowners. From CNN to many other national news media networks, this footage has been made public to all exposing the flaws of Ring’s video-security system. The mass media footage shown of the confirmed incidents has displayed various unidentified individuals using the speaker system of Amazon’s Ring to taunt and harass the homeowner’s children and loved ones. In fact, in an incident in Mississippi it was reported by a concerned mother and customer of Amazon’s Ring that: “…an unknown voice was taunting her 8-year-old daughter via a Ring device set up to monitor the girl’s bedroom”. The unknown voice was reported to be saying such statements like: “I’m Santa Claus. Don’t you want to be my friend?” to an emotionally traumatized child. Amazon’s response to these various incidents has been announcing in a statement that the company’s security device has had “no evidence that Ring’s system or network was compromised”. Rather, consumers should focus on good two-factor identification by setting up strong usernames and passwords to prevent hacks into the device. Essentially, Amazon told the consumer that they themselves have failed in their protecting themselves from these attacks by not having good wireless security for their Amazon Ring home security device. With these vulnerabilities so readily evident, Amazon’s Ring home security device should be recalled from all consumers and fixed until the company has ensured that the device is safe and secure enough to be resistant to external hackers. Installing firewalls and other antivirus software to fight external traffic will help aid Amazon in keeping their consumers safe as well as satisfied with their product. Until then, however, customer privacy and security are virtually nonexistent for such similar software to Square and thus, leave the door open to whether other similar video-conferencing/video-security devices are or aren’t vulnerable to violating current United States privacy and security laws.

    Therefore, another instance of privacy and security risks exposed through the utilization of various video-conferencing/video-security devices can be displayed through the function of another Amazon device. Separate but similar to the Amazon Ring home security system, Amazon’s Alexa, a cloud-based artificial-intelligence listening device installed to help users update their Amazon shopping lists, listens in on its customer’s conversations which leaves them vulnerable to having their identity stolen by employees from Amazon recording on the other end of the device. These employees may utilize such pertinent customer information gained such as: the customer’s bank routing number or SSID for their benefit. While this scenario of internal employee theft is hypothetical, the method of how Amazon’s Alexa has been feeding a stream of conversations is very much verifiable. Amazon’s Alexa is equipped with Smart speaker technology and thus, is always listening and learning from her surroundings. Once the wake word, or command prompt is uttered the device will become available for the user to state their demand of what they want Alexa to do and she’ll perform the task (as long as it is in her technical limitations). Examples of this include: “Alexa, play me the Beach Boys” or “Alexa, find me used pianos”. The “wake word” being Alexa and the command being of playing music by a certain musical artist or finding product information is filtered through the user’s respective Amazon services of Amazon Prime Music and the Amazon Prime Online Store. If these commands were given without the “wake word” or phrase to activate capacity to perform in the device than nothing would happen. While the device performs these tasks for its users, the conversations are simultaneously recorded by the device to learn from consumer behavior and easily anticipate what they may want in the future. Still while the device is performing at its functional capacity to observe and learn from user behavior, it doesn’t stop Amazon from using a team of employees to take copies of this recorded information and upload it to the cloud without the user’s consent. And although, bank numbers and SSIDs for customers may not be gained through regular tasks by use of the “wake word”, the customer may slip up and accidentally utter a phrase similar to the “wake word” and end up spilling their relevant information to the cloud where it can be easily accessed and manipulated by Amazon. Amazon, themselves are aware of this function of their own product, for it is thee to help Alexa learn from her surroundings, as well as, “claiming it will improve Alexa’s ‘customer experience’”. The reasoning leads itself to seeming rather faulty, for Amazon hasn’t really gone into much detail or accurately explained what Alexa needs the data for in detail. And the only possible solutions at the moment for those who own the video-conferencing device, is to either turn off the Alexa by either pressing the plus button to disable its monitoring capabilities or unplugging it after every use to disconnect power and completely shut off the device’s primary functionality. Although these solutions are temporary, the privacy and security risks are still paramount even if the customer has an easy way out. Amazon should work with their customers to obtain their consent to having their data utilized by the company. Not only that, but federal laws should strengthen around protecting consumer data to uphold the 4th amendment right of all U.S. citizens to: “unreasonable search and seizure”. One would recommend advocating for new legislation protecting the rights of online consumer data to Congress and drafting of a bill through bipartisan cooperation. As this important information remains underutilized and ignored by unaware legislators and citizens, customers will not be safe from Amazon stealing their private data and listening in on their private conversations with Alexa. While Amazon has clearly displayed itself to have issues with privacy and security breaches in both their video-security and video-conferencing software respectively, they aren’t the only company with similar software to Square with violations in civil ethics.

    As a matter of fact, the final example of video-conferencing/video-security software that has created risks in privacy and security due to mismanagement of resources has been Zoom, the premier video-conferencing software and primary competitor to Square. Communications through Zoom are not encrypted enough to protect against third parties from listening in on private conversations and stealing customer data. More importantly, Zoom has the power to effectively monitor what their customers say online and can be compelled to hand over their private conversations to the federal government if they’ve been suspected of criminal activity. The company has in fact confirmed that there is no end to end encryption for their software at the moment, by stating that: “Currently, it is not possible to enable E2E encryption for Zoom video meetings.” This leaving their customer base with their private data unsecured and able to be accessed and mined for multiple reasons that serve to only benefit the company themselves.The encryption for Zoom is weaker than most websites with secure firewalls on the Internet, meaning that Zoom conferences are practically open to all external traffic from the outside. As mentioned before, not only can the private data from these meetings be hacked and sold to third parties, but it can also, be data-mined by Zoom to help tem bombard their consumers in a flurry of advertisements to make some quick cash off them. Zoom’s corporate response to this has been very similar to Amazon’s response to its utilization of Alexa’s listening capabilities. Zoom has given a very nondescript corporate statement saying that: “Zoom complies with our legal obligation s or legal obligations of our customers”. With this blanket statement Zoom has not confirmed or denied that they’ve been secretly monitoring their clients’ private web-video conferences and utilizing the data for their disposal. For the clients, the only solutions for these privacy and security risks require them to have a high aptitude for computers and information systems. The user would have to secure end-to-end encryption and a variety of other add-ons and plug-ins to keep their data private from Zoom spying on them. In the end, all these concerns shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. What needs to happen is that Zoom needs to establish a standard of privacy and consumers need to stand up for protecting their data from the company utilizing it without their informed knowledge or consent. Without consumers standing up for privacy and security violations, no company will accept responsibility for their actions and fix the problems at hand.

    In conclusion, while Square has made leaps and bounds in becoming a replacement to traditional video-conferencing software, one must not forget the privacy and security risks inherit in technology with a lack of firewalls to deter external hacks and a lack of good faith protection for privacy laws in illegally spying on consumers. Amazon’s Ring demonstrated the lack of logical security controls in the physical home security device causing customers to be threatened and harassed by external hackers. Amazon’s Alexa displayed a violation of current privacy laws by having the artificial-intelligence listen in on their customer’s conversations and glean relevant data to have at their disposal. Zoom showed that they had weak encryption in their conferences which allowed the company the opportunity to collect their customer’s private data and utilize it to be sold to third parties or monetized for their own gain. With these lessons learned from the scandals of these three similar software competitors, one should hope that the company, Argodesign, takes these experiences to heart and learns from the mistakes of their current rivals in the development of their product in this highly competitive industry.

    My Sources:
    -https://www.fastcompany.com/90498000/move-over-zoom-this-magic-interface-is-the-future-of-videoconferencing?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner

    -https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeanbaptiste/2019/05/16/why-amazon-alexa-is-always-listening-to-your-conversations-analysis/#498738df2378

    -https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2020/1/3/21043653/amazon-ring-hacking-cases-doorbell-santa-claus-kids-bedroom-safe-lawsuit-security-camera-home-hacker

    -https://theintercept.com/2020/03/31/zoom-meeting-encryption/

  21. Matt G May 22, 2020 at 8:03 pm #

    As a result of COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine that resulted from it, schools and businesses around the world have found the possibility of meeting in person is no longer safe and have since moved to doing their operations remotely. To continue their functions the best they can during the current situation, the need for a platform to connect with others was required, and the most popular one that emerged was Zoom. Zoom allows their users to connect online with others and communicate with both video and audio, allowing classes and business meetings to be able to continue online for the time being. Other similar platforms to Zoom have also been used, but pretty much every student or worker today has either directly used Zoom or heard of it from its continued mentions in media today. Along with the familiarity that many have gained with using Zoom, a lot of people are also taking advantage of using Zoom to keep in touch with friends and family that they are no longer able to see in person, as well as other recreational activities and clubs continuing their operations through Zoom now as well. Zoom’s strength is that it is free and quite easy to set-up and use, but there are some problems that people have with the platform which has led to other competitors deciding to take their own approach the video conferencing. As one might expect, there is a big adjustment that is needed for people to use Zoom and some users find that the interaction with others on the platform seems unnatural. A company named Argodesign has decided to take their own approach to video conferencing and bring back the feeling of directly being in an office space that Zoom cannot provide.

    Argodesign has created a technology concept called Square, which uses a large display and hidden cameras that are used to create a 3D video affect, which tracks the user and shifts the perspective of the display to match the user’s actions. As a result, it creates a realistic illusion that the person that you are talking to you is in the same room to give a similar feeling to being in a meeting at an office location. This technology’s goal is to make virtual meetings feel more life-like and like you are in the same location as the other person as opposed to the simple video to video response that would be seen in something like Zoom. The device also comes with a curtain that can be pulled down to cover the cameras when the user no longer is currently using it. The estimated price of the device is listed at $500-$1000, which is my personal main concern for whether it will be able to catch on and replace something like Zoom. To me, I see this technology as something that won’t be able to make an immediate impact to replace Zoom and might only be used as a luxury between executives of a company. However, I do think that they technology has potential for the future where businesses are going to reassess the need to work in an office space and might decide to move their employees to working in their own homes, especially businesses in the technology industry where most of the work is being done on a computer. If companies in the future are no longer seeing a need for keeping an office space and would rather their employees all work from their own locations, then the use of this technology becomes important to keep people connected in a more personal way. I also can see this technology being popular as a luxury for people who live far distances from friends and family members and would want to use something that makes them feel more personally connected with them. I think this technology overall has a lot of potential but that it is being too futuristic for it to be utilized as the primary platform for businesses or classrooms during this current situation.

  22. Alex Subryan May 23, 2020 at 6:23 am #

    Zoom has taken the world by storm, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. While most professionals are used to some form of tele-working, the majority of the population was not. Availability of modernized video-conferencing solutions existed (Skype, Facebook, etc.) but were not scalable to support the demand from the global population. Zoom stepped in and addressed that market with their free services.

    I am not a fan of the “Zoom killer”. Having another technology element in my home is costly and I consider an invasion of my privacy. When I am on a Zoom call, I really don’t like turning on the video, but if I have to, I want to get on and off as quickly as possible. Adding this new screen to allow 3-D images of yourself will hav an effect on you subconsciously (I feel) and could decrease productivity.

  23. Tom M May 23, 2020 at 10:54 pm #

    Establishing new and innovative ideas in the telecommuting industry will certainly not be a one-time ordeal as we move into the future. As more and more companies realize that they can have the same type of efficiency and productivity at a fraction of the cost they will begin to invest in technologies just like this one. ‘The Square’ certainly highlights all the wants and needs of the individual but there are certainly reasons why every business has not tapped into this industry or at least not successfully. One of the main reasons being strict regulations on information security and data privacy. Users want to know that their data is safe no matter what platform they are in and having technology that highlights 3-D objects of your surrounding environment is just one more piece of data for a company to gather on you. We have seen where mass collection of data can lead as we look at on going examples such as Facebook’s failure to keep user privacy intact. Facebook has suffered severe consequences for their actions and based on this open idea of bringing a more real-life experience, there is no evidence to state that Argodesign has any intention of covering their backs in this regard. The circumstances might change in the future however it seems clear that this firm is primarily focused on the technology advancement aspect as opposed to the practicality of the product.
    Looking at the foundation of the product, there are several competing firms who have the resources and capability to manufacture a product as such especially since the product has not moved much past the idea stage and would require a series of patent approvals. This was another issue where Facebook found themselves struggling to establish intellectual property rights in the beginning phases of their company. Although a mildly separate industry the principal remains. I enjoy the idea behind the product and think it could revolutionize the way that people telecommute in the future however I do see potential risk factors for the company to address from a legal standpoint so that they can lay the foundation for a profitable business.

  24. Matt Simpson May 27, 2020 at 11:44 pm #

    During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of companies and schools all over are resorting to zoom conferences for all their telecommunication needs. This has been a good source of telecommunication and has many features that are helpful. The only thing it is lacking is a great feature from “The Square” that allows people to see a 3-D feature to show someone at a clearer angle. At the moment as stated in the article there are about ten million people using zoom. During this new world, we are living in, people will tend to want to social distance as much as they can and this product would allow for easy collaboration. This product is called “The Square” by Argodesign and it creates an artificial window made out of LCD screens. The product itself would go onto the way by the side of your desk like your sitting next to someone. The screen can be closed just like a window for privacy and allow for a real-life office feel. The only downside is the product is just a concept that has yet to be made into production. The layout of this product would include four small cameras combined to make 3-D images. This allows it to follow the way that you move to show the depth in the picture and make it feel like real life. The feeling of this product is said to not feel like a conversation but a desk mate. This tool would allow people to read people’s emotions easier. While using zoom people could experience fatigue from using it and may look like someone is not focused or mentally there. This device does not only allow for a one on one feeling but also a realistic conference room view. The company producing these believes this will not be a premium product and is in the price range of $500 to $1000.
    I believe a lot of companies will want to invest in this product because of the in-office feel that it gives the users. This will be good for collaboration between team members in the department trying to work on a project while on the laptop and talking to people face to face. The feature of feeling like you’re in the office also comes with the ability to keep each other on track and in the work mode to complete assignments. Also, a lot of schools would invest in this product because of the collaboration factor that it allows for in this setting. This will help for advisor students and teachers/professors to be able to collaborate freely amongst each other. This would also help keep accountability during tests for the professor to proctor it more freely.

  25. Christina F. May 29, 2020 at 10:27 pm #

    As someone who uses Zoom and Google Meet for both work and personal life, this article presented an interesting alternative to these traditional conferencing applications. However, upon reading the article, I immediately felt that this falls a bit into the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley was first coined by Masahiro Mori when he wanted to describe the mental uneasiness that we feel when robotics or virtual environments come close to realism but don’t quite achieve it. The subtle differences between virtual reality and reality make us feel uncomfortable and I imagine that this virtual 3D projection of your co-worker and their home that tracks your own movement will likely create that feeling of uneasiness where it feels both natural and unnatural. While the uncanny valley is still very theoretical, I think the potential to fall into this could create significant issues with product adoption.

    In addition to the uneasiness caused by the uncanny valley, there’s also the big brother feel that the article itself mentions. While yes, in an office environment you are “on display” and employees can drop by your desk anytime. The difference however is that the office is a physical location that people leave behind at the end of the day whereas this virtual space will live in the home at all times. In an era where people are already struggling to define a work/life balance, I think this device would greatly hinder that process and make it harder for employees to disconnect.

    Lastly, I would like to examine the practicality of this design. The “Square” sounds like this device will require quite a bit of work to set-up and unless the company has a tech team on the road or very tech savvy employees, it will likely create logistical issues and incur additional costs to set-up within the employee’s home. This device also makes me wonder what would occur if you have two people in front of the camera instead of one, will it be able to register multiple participants or would companies still need to employ other video conferencing technologies to maintain business functionality?

    I think the motivation behind the concept is sound but I also think it needs to go through some more iterations. Thorough market research can help product designers determine who would be the target market and benefit most from this product. As well as whether that target market would adopt this product for the advertised purpose. I like the ingenuity but the application needs some more work on the drawing board.

    Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-uncanny-valley-human-look-alikes-put-us-on-edge/

  26. Nelly G May 29, 2020 at 11:01 pm #

    Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, schools, work places across the world are unable to hold classes and have meetings in person. As a result, people have turned to other means of communication. Zoom is one such communication. Zoom has undoubtly changed how people communicate. Because of Zoom’s simplicity, it has become the go to platform for students to take classes and talk to each other. Video conferencing could be just as effective as ping to meetings physically. The Square that is being discussed in the article is an excellent example of this how zoom could be improved. This frame for this devise hides four small cameras, which when combined their images to create a 3D version of what you would see rather than your regular flat screen. The company has tried to recreate the feeling of being in a office, by allowing you to interact with coworkers more naturally.

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