First there was the novelty of having all of your meetings online. Then came the fatigue of being on camera for much of the day. So what DO you do when all those Zoom meetings make it feel like Groundhog Day?

Toucan is an alternative to Zoom meetings. This is a screenshot of a Toucan get-together
Toucan lets you huddle in ways Zoom meetings can’t

With typical human ingenuity, the video meeting space is moving on, offering us new ways to hang out together in the limited gathering space that is a computer monitor or phone screen.

Of course some of the efforts to break up the monotony are going to be more successful than others, so we’ve taken a quick look at some of the early contenders.

As you browse through you’ll quickly form a view on whether any of them look like the future…

  1. Toucan – We’ve all been in that video call, even with friends and family, where the format can make the experience extremely painful, sometimes awkward. Natural conversation is hard and you certainly can’t get away with chatting across each other. Toucan is looking to change that by recreating the huddles that might happen in different parts of the same room. People naturally drift from one to another, but you can’t do that in a typical Teams, Skype or Zoom environment. Break out rooms are too formal and not generally available. Toucan is creating a way you can visualise those groups and quickly move between them, creating fluidity that might be more akin to normal mingling. This one certainly looks like it could have promise for those quiz nights, networking events and more.
  2. Famera – Hmm. Not so sure about this one. From what we can tell, it basically puts your head on a cartoonish character for the duration of your virtual gathering, inside an environment that may or may not make you feel like you’re tripping. Verdict: probably mildly amusing for about three seconds (see the promo video for the full ‘side-splitting’ effect…)
  3. Flinkit! – This is intriguing. It’s team building in the virtual realm, presenting games and challenges for your online gathering to participate in together. It seems to be pretty advanced and very cleverly executed. You solve problems as a team with clues, maps and visual aids, among other things. There are people who are going to absolutely adore this. That said, in my head I can already hear a certain one of my colleagues muttering about one of the things she hates most – “forced fun”.

There are more (and sometimes even more bizarre) Zoom alternatives popping up and some will get traction in a changed world that is learning to live without much of the traditional need for business travel.

Whether any of these offerings are for the better is widely open to debate, but it might just allow us to keep the format fresh for long enough until we can get back to doing more face-to-face again…

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