Long lost are the days of delayed feedback. At least they should be long lost, but there's been a delay.
Delayed feedback impedes our ability to learn and connect. It damages the way we link cause and effect and makes human interaction, less human. What do I mean by delayed feedback?
Delayed feedback can be a number of things. The earliest example is receiving grades on a test you took in primary school. If the feedback, or the graded exam, comes in the following week, you likely forgot the prep-work you did for that exam. You no longer associate your efforts with the test. But, if that test is graded soon after it is given, then you immediately receive the effect, the feedback, to your study prep as well as your general performance on the exam. This can help associate cause with effect to help learn. And this is how we have learned throughout our lives as modern homo-sapiens.
The absence of this has us getting yelled at for seemingly no reason, just because that reason was too far back in our faulty memories. I mean, do you even remember this episode of Rick and Morty?
But delayed feedback doesn’t just exist in environments like these. It exists in all the online video conferences and calls that feel uncanny for some reason like there is just something off about the way we are communicating.
Because there is something off about the way we are communicating in Video calls.
I mean just look at how awkward this stock photo is.
The slight delay in response time does more than you would think. It's not as real-time as we are lead to believe because we communicate timing with body language that is absent. Think about the times that you have leaned into a group before you speak, or how a speaker would graciously gesture to you to share your thoughts. There is a lack of conversational turn-based queuing that makes things feel off.
But beyond the delayed feedback we are hindered again by the need to look at a black dot (camera) instead of the speaker. This makes it even harder to use facial expressions or body language that can carry a conversation so effortlessly.
But the alternative, camera off, doesn’t provide any helpful body language for feedback. The visual cues that we subconsciously process like the smiling of the eyes are gone. The raised eyebrows of doubt, also gone. The darting eyes of someone who is obviously using multiple monitors to multitask while I’m talking to them, never truly gone.
Regardless of camera, folks are talking over each other, it's unclear who is speaking sometimes and it's hard to follow conversations for some uncanny reason that we can now call delayed feedback.
So what’s the solution? You wouldn’t be writing this if you didn’t have a solution right?
Well. I don’t have a perfect solution, but there are steps being made in the direction that can make the virtual communications that we rely on so heavily, just a tad better. And it’s been around for a while now; VR Chat.
I’m not talking about the VRchat specifically, but instead, the multiple branching options that aren’t limited to VirBELA, MeetinVR, Glue, FrameVR, Engage, and on and on. It’s a saturated space right now. But that’s because it has tons to offer in addition to making conversations feel more fluid.
Let’s chat about this fluidity:
1. No black dot - First off, no black dot. In VR meetings you get to look at people and stuff! It’s awesome.
2. You can move - You can use body language, you can throw bananas. Just normal communications stuff.
3. Tools, tools, tools - Okay to pretty good integration of screen sharing, collaborative tools, and more.
4. Organic Grouping - This is a weird one. In most VR meeting tools, break-out rooms are literally rooms. You can walk off and just chat.
5. Emotes - You can emote with most VR meeting platforms that go beyond the thumbs up or clapping that often goes unnoticed in many video calls.
6. Timing - It takes a bit of getting used to, but by being able to move and see responses for the whole body in real-time (largely due to not having to look at a camera) makes conversations feel more natural. The space between speaking if full of movement and interaction, like it should be.
Despite all this, we are still missing linguistic and technological aspects of communication that can take VR meetings over the top. There are gaps and there are peaks for each VR meeting program, but they still excel well past the “Okay, can you hear me?” of video calls. And don't you fret, we'll get to those gaps in a later blog post.