The social etiquette surrounding video calls and meetings is still an evolving phenomenon, but a new gesture-activated add-on that works with Zoom, Slack, Skype, and more could certainly alleviate some problems. In short, it saves you from unmuting your mic to make small contributions by using gestures to activate comic book-style dialogue boxes.
So if you wave, it’ll say “Hello.” A thumbs-up produces a “Yes.” A closed fist a “No.” Raise a finger, and it’ll show that you want to ask a question. Laugh, and the words “Ha Ha” will flit across the screen. Best yet, if you leave the frame at all, text will appear telling the call’s other participants that you’ll “be right back.”
It’s a genius idea that could save a lot of hassle in video calls, and it’s the work of Cameron Hunter, an engineer at Netflix. Hunter shared the add-on on Twitter this week, where it swiftly racked up thousands of retweets and plenty of praise (and requests for new gestures, like covering your mouth to tell someone “you’re on mute” — an indispensable addition). You can see the full range in Hunter’s video below:
In video meetings it's a hassle to unmute just to say one word especially if someone else is speaking. I created a video lens that uses hand gestures to show comic-book style messages instead. So far it's been pretty fun! pic.twitter.com/wp6XO5QDQc— Cameron Hunter (@cameronhunter) September 15, 2020
The add-on is free to use but does take a bit of setup. It works using Snapchat’s augmented reality Lens framework, so the first thing you need to do is download Snap Camera for your computer. Once that’s installed, you’ll need to find Hunter’s lens. To do that, just search for this URL in the Snap Camera library and favorite the lens for easy access.
After that, you’ll need to route whatever video call software you’re using through Snap Camera. You can find a guide on how to do that for Zoom, Google Hangout, Google Meet, and Skype here. But usually, it’s as simple as going to the app’s preferences, then changing the video input from whatever webcam you’re currently using to the Snap Camera. You may need to update your apps to get it up and running, though.
We tested the Lens with Zoom, and it worked extremely well. There were a few minor problems, the biggest of which was that the “Ha Ha” filter tends to trigger accidentally, which could be awkward or inappropriate at the wrong moment. The “I’ll Be Right Back” text is also quite eager and pops up anytime your face is obscured even a little. And yes, sure, I am momentarily distracted whenever I have a sip of water, but not enough to warrant a “brb.”
Overall, though, it’s a fantastic little add-on for anyone who spends a lot of time on video calls, and we wouldn’t be surprised if companies like Zoom and Google start integrating features like this directly into their own software in the future. Because, just as we all know that many meetings should be emails, not every contribution in a meeting deserves an unmute.