Why Zoom’s New Immersive View Meeting Feature Has A Serious Problem
In late spring 2021, Zoom launched Immersive View, a new feature which allows its host to assemble all their video participants, or webinar panelists, into a single virtual background. The idea is to make the video chat platform more immersive by bringing all the participants into one virtual scene. The new feature is in direct response to the often rigid qualities of Zoom. As CNET reports, "Zoom's use skyrocketed during the pandemic, as it became the video chat app of choice for millions of people for both work and socializing. With the rise of Zoom also came the concepts of Zoom fatigue, or the exhaustion of spending hours on video chat, and Zoom anxiety, or the stress that can come along with these meetings."
While Covid-19 vaccines continue to roll out worldwide, workplaces and educational institutions are shifting to hybrid set-ups and remote school and work continue to be a staple of our daily lives. But does the new Zoom Immersive View feature offer a solution to curing Zoom fatigue? Does it actually make Zoom meetings more engaging?
Brett Martin is an associate professor at Columbia Business School, and the co-founder of Kumospace, an immersive video chat platform that is built to be a more engaging alternative to Zoom. As an expert on the video conferencing industry, we asked Brett to share his thoughts on Zoom's new Immersive View feature.
Software that leverages spatial audio, an innovation that enables multiple simultaneous conversations in the same space, just like IRL. Spatial audio allows multiple groups of people to stay engaged for long periods of time.
Another recent innovation is immersive virtual environments that users can explore and interact with. Virtual environments range from simple virtual coffee shops for catching up with your friends to elaborate virtual escape rooms designed for remote team building.
Folks have been working on immersive environments in VR for years but they have always required expensive and costly headsets to which few have access. The innovation here is that software like Kumospace enables immersive virtual environments right in the browser so that everyone can participate.
Bluntly, there are none. There’s nothing “immersive” about a static picture with faces strewn across it. A prettier background doesn’t fix the Brady Bunch problem, in which users are trapped in a grid of faces with no agency or ability to explore. This simple visualization change doesn't fix that problem.
The challenge with Zoom is that it quickly becomes boring and stagnant for groups. While one person speaks, everyone else waits — or worse, checks out.
Customers are fleeing from Zoom into the arms of innovation-driven startups that are rapidly unbundling and verticalizing video chat to cater to specific use cases. Zoom knows this, hence its recent focus on becoming a “platform” with various use case-specific apps. Unfortunately for Zoom, the core product is incredibly rigid and to support a variety of use cases the company would need to completely re-architect its product. That’s painful and expensive so instead they are releasing a glitzy re-skinning of the same flawed product and hoping that no one will notice. Trust me, Zoom participants will notice.
Stepping back from Zoom, the video conferencing industry is on the precipice of being disrupted.
Video chat is a commodity product and the traditional monetization model of charging for access to it is outdated. That is why Kumospace is free! By providing users with their own slice of virtual reality and human digestible URLs, we are letting people create an immersive space that reflects their personality. Think Roblox for adults. And pulling from the innovative world of video games, that’s how Kumospace will eventually make money: by delivering amazing virtual experiences and goods to our users.
To reference HBS professor Clayton Christensen, Zoom faces a true Innovators Dilemma. To adjust to a future in which video chat is free and customers pay for innovative virtual goods and experience, Zoom would have to cannibalize its core business of selling expensive SaaS to enterprise customers. That’s going to be tough with public stakeholders and quarterly earnings to manage. But if they don’t course correct, in a decade we might look back on Zoom’s half-hearted attempt at “Immersive View” the same way we reflect on Kodak and its fated decision to ignore the digital camera market: seeing the cliff and driving straight off it.
They say that the next big thing looks like a toy. People certainly thought that Kumospace was cute when we released it last August. Less than a year later, our monthly usage has grown by over 250 times to hundreds of thousands of hours of video chat every month.
Today Kumospace is being used on six continents by more than 3,000 of the world’s most recognizable companies. The future of video chat is fun and we couldn’t be more excited to build it.