In Zoom’s latest update for PC and Mac, the teleconferencing company is making a subtly radical update to its interface. Now, when gesturing a thumbs up or raising your hand in a meeting, computer vision will recognize it and display the matching reaction icon on your colleagues’ screens.
Could the company that took video chats mainstream do the same thing with gesture control? Perhaps. Zoom’s small feature could make gestures an everyday part of our lives—something designers and technologists have been teasing for decades, without much mainstream success.
The appeal of gesture control is obvious. Rather than click buttons or tap tiny screens, you simply move your hands or body naturally as you do during conversations and real-world activities. Ideally, gestures could remove the barriers between you and a computer entirely.
Zoom seems to have sidestepped the pitfalls of earlier gesture products, finding the sweet spot for gesture controls with its thumbs up and raised hand. Why is this approach better than what we’ve seen? For one, many of us are already making these gestures in Zoom meetings!
For whatever work culture reason, I don’t thumbs up anywhere in my life but on Zoom, where the practice is as natural as it can be—so no one needs to learn the gesture, or even know that Zoom is tracking it, for this to work. Furthermore, neither a thumbs up nor a hand raise requires physical resistance to feel good. We’ve always made these gestures in the air.
But most of all, this trick solves a real problem for Zoom. Unless you are squinting at the full Brady Bunch view of participants on any given call, it’s difficult to see how people react to any question. Zoom is digitizing their reactions in a way that can be highlighted for a host—all while they’re replacing a redundant button press for the user (why thumbs up and hit a thumbs up button? It’s silly).
Zoom took teleconferencing mainstream. They may do the same thing with gesture controls next.