Online town |

Like a lot of people, at the start of lockdown I ended up trying out a seemingly endless stream of video-chat services. For the most part, Zoom seems to have become the de facto standard, but during the brief moment that House Party was knocking around my friend group I wondered aloud whether a mashup of Habbo Hotel and House Party wouldn't make sense. Specifically, in large groups Zoom becomes unwieldy and makes conversation difficult; it forces everyone to have the same purpose.

Since then, I've seen a lot of people talking about how they miss the serendipitous conversations that office spaces enable, as well as the "water cooler chat". Again, it feels like a virtual office space, that you can navigate a la Habbo Hotel as an avatar, but which individuals would communicate via proximity-triggered video chat felt like a potential remote "fix" for these kinds of interactions. Sure, walking your avatar over to the kitchen isn't going to be that natural, but you get the idea.

Well, Online Town looks like it's trying something along those lines. You create a room, drop-in, and walk around as an avatar. As you get close to people, they appear on video squares and you can hear what they're saying. I hope that conversations become "louder" as you get closer, so you can effectively eavesdrop as you walk around. For me, that feels like a potentially quite interesting model for fully online social gatherings. Perhaps in an alternate universe where Google Glass was a runaway success, we could now be looking at integrations where literally going to your kitchen at home moved your avatar to the virtual "water cooler" and anyone else in there popped-up on your heads-up display. Personally, I think that would be quite interesting to try.

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  • Like a lot of people, at the start of lockdown I ended up trying out a seemingly endless stream of video-chat services. For the most part, Zoom seems to have become the <em>de facto</em> standard, […]
  • Murray Adcock.
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