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Zoom Escaper lets you sabotage your own meetings with audio problems, crying babies, and more

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‘Oh, is my connection bad? I’m so sorry, I’ll just drop out and fix it’

Zoom Escaper offers a range of sound effects to help with self-sabotage.
Image: Zoom Escaper

Had enough Zoom meetings? Can’t bear another soul-numbing day of sitting on video calls, the only distraction your rapidly aging face, pinned in one corner of the screen like a dying bug? Well, if so, then boy do we have the app for you. Meet Zoom Escaper: a free web widget that lets you add an array of fake audio effects to your next Zoom Call, gifting you with numerous reasons to end the meeting and escape, while you still can.

You can choose from barking dogs, construction noises, crying babies, or even subtler effects like choppy audio and unwanted echoes. Created by artist Sam Lavigne, Zoom Escaper is fantastically simple to use. All you need do is download a free bit of audio software called VB-Audio that routes your audio through the website, then change your audio input in Zoom from your microphone to VB-Audio, and play with the effects.

You can watch a video tutorial on how to set up Zoom Escaper and listen to a sample of the various sound effects here:

If you’re running Zoom Escaper, you can’t actually hear the sound effects yourself. But I was able to test the site’s functionality with the help of my colleague, Verge news editor Chaim Gartenberg. Here was his opinion of the various effects Zoom Escaper had to offer:

  • Urination: “That sounds very fake. Also, I’m not entirely sure what the plan is to sell this as a reason to leave a call?”
  • Construction: “This sounds like you literally stood in the middle of a construction site. I think the sounds need to be a bit more muffled to sell it, but it’s very good.”
  • Man Weeping: “Those are the sobs of a broken man. But who’s crying — is it your roommate, your partner?”
  • Bad Connection: “This one works really well. Your audio is coming through broken up and disrupted. Get off the call.”
  • Echo: “Extremely annoying and very convincing. This sounds like a busted Zoom connection. If someone I was speaking to had this, I’d tell them to get it fixed. It wouldn’t be feasible to have a meeting with that.”
  • Wind: “If you were trying to skive off work, I’m not sure how you’d convincingly sell gale force winds in your own office.”
  • Dog: “That sounds very real. It sounds like a dog barking outside, but maybe not the sort of thing you’d need to take care of?”
  • Upset Baby: “That baby sounds decently upset! This is definitely something you should go and check on! Go and take care of your baby!”

Our opinion was that Upset Baby provided the most excusable reason to drop a call, but also requires that people believe you have a baby. And if you’re prepared to fake the existence of a child in order to get out of Zoom meetings with your co-workers, then perhaps you have bigger issues with work than a few annoying video meetings.

Zoom Escaper isn’t the first of Lavigne’s projects to self-inflict computer harm. His 2017 work The Good Life let users sign up to receive 225,000 emails confiscated from Enron during its 2001 implosion, while 2016’s Slow Hot Computer is a website that... makes your computer run slow and hot. “Use it at work to decrease your productivity,” says Lavigne.

If Zoom Escaper isn’t direct enough for you, there’s also Zoom Deleter, another of Lavigne’s creations. As he writes on his website, this is just a small program that runs in your menu bar or system tray: “It continually checks for the presence of Zoom on your computer, and if found, immediately deletes it.”

Speaking to The Verge, Lavigne describes the underlying ethos of his art as: “Deliberate slowdown, reducing productivity and output, self-sabotage, etc.” When asked by The Verge why these values were important to him, Lavigne did not respond.