While Zoom has become infamous for “Zoom Fatigue” and “Zoom Anxiety” as we’ve covered in the past few weeks, it should be noted that these problems are more about the way video calling software is used than the actual software itself.
Video conferencing in general is an incredibly useful tool, and even a lifeline in some cases, especially during the pandemic. Not only to those in work and educational environments, but for personal reasons too, such as keeping up to date with family and friends who cannot visit due to restrictions.
The increase in availability and reliability of video conferencing software, along with an increase in popularity, (gained as a method of complying with social distancing requirements during the pandemic lockdowns,) means that some workplaces, educational environments and other places using face-to-face meetings are considering switching over to a hybrid system permanently.
This could be a boon for everyone, but particularly for those who have to commute, and also useful for long-distance learning. It could also help people to work from home in situations where they might have otherwise been unable to travel to work at all – for example, with an injury that affects mobility.
Zoom has been continuing to roll out bug fixes and updates as any other software company, but they’ve also introduced a few new features that might be useful or interesting to some users. Features are rolling out that increase Zoom’s use in situations where one conference room makes a group call to another, as well as for single-person zoom calls.
Amazon’s Alexa for Business can now be integrated into Zoom Rooms (a feature which we’ll be covering in more depth at a later date). Hosts can start, stop or mute a meeting using voice commands, or even invite Alexa into the conversation as a virtual assistant, to set reminders, look things up, or use other available features.
There are a new set of emojis available to enable users to react to messages. The option is also now available to set the skin tone for your emoji. Hosts will need to enable this new full emoji set before it can be used. Emoji use can also be restricted by the host if required.
A new vanishing pen feature enables users to make annotations on the virtual whiteboard which disappear after a set amount of time, meaning that the host or user no longer needs to waste time erasing comments or other temporary marks. Zoom now also has an auto-shapes tool on iOS and Android tablets that can be used to draw straight lines, circles and other shapes directly onto the whiteboard.
Similar to a feature in Teams, users can now appear as if they’re all in the same virtual location on screen. You can choose outdoor locations, or places like a classroom or art gallery, or the host can even upload their own background. It’s designed to make video calls feel a little more fun, relaxing, and more personal. Virtual Background is not required to use this feature, but it does work better with it enabled.
Security options are now easier to access and are collected together in the Zoom security centre. Users can click the security icon on the meeting menu bar to see and adjust all of the available options.
Next week, in a similar vein, we’ll be looking at some of the updates that Microsoft has made to its Teams platform.