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In Defense of Metaverse Meetings
Upcoming features from major tech companies can help take the anxiety out of meetings.
In recent months, both Microsoft and The Company Formerly Known as Facebook (Meta) have announced products focused on making digital meeting spaces. Many people have reacted with scorn. Though these products certainly do not feel cool or inspiring or exciting in their use case, it is something we should celebrate and encourage. These can help people feel more comfortable in communicating with others.
Previously, I’ve written about how becoming an indie VTuber has helped improve my confidence on-camera and helped me deal with the heightened dysphoria that typically comes from scrutinizing how I look on camera. What these products provide, in addition to virtual meeting spaces, is a professional equivalent of VTubers. Though that typically involves characters that are cute and fantastical, the core concept of being represented accurately on-screen by a live avatar is the same.
More and more work is being done remotely — which is great! This reduces stress and time wasted on commutes for employees, traffic and emissions issues, and overhead cost for companies. This means more and more meetings will be held virtually. Though the pandemic greatly accelerated this trend, it existed for years, and it will likely continue after.
Giving someone the opportunity to be “on camera” without literally being on camera can empower them to be a more effective communicator in a virtual meeting without the stress that many have from having their face on-screen. Much of communication is non-verbal, and that can be captured and reconstructed in live digital avatar form. Though subtle details are obviously lost, it provides a lot of the same visual contextual information for what someone is saying.
During the pandemic, many have pointed out how remote learning often highlighted economic disparities between students and put poorer ones in a position of self-confidence about their surroundings. This effect likely applies to interviews as well, where people breaking into careers such as coding might still live in conditions they worry will reflect poorly upon them in remote interviews. These sorts of technologies enable people the opportunity to remove these factors from the equation while retaining a high degree of emotional connection.
Among critics, there’s a tendency to look at products like this and go, “We’ve created this amazing technology and we’re using it for something so mundane” — as if that is an inherently bad thing. It isn’t. When technology enhances the mundane to empower people to accomplish more with less stress, we are better off for it. Though many may be fine with using apps like Zoom a lot without thought, these sorts of technologies can make it a lot less stressful for those who find it anxiety-inducing.
Often, with technologies like these, it’s easy to not see yourself personally wanting it or benefitting from it and decrying it as useless, but it is important to understand how it might help others. We are lucky that we live in a time when people can increasingly liberate themselves from concern over superficial details about themselves and their lives they stress over needlessly to focus on what matters.
We should welcome what virtual representations of ourselves and virtual places in which to meet can enable, even if some of the use cases are mundane. Not all technology use needs to be exciting, it just needs to better empower and enable people to live their best lives. Metaverse meetings certainly fulfill that criterion.
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