The truth behind Together Mode in Microsoft Teams

As time passes, society changes, along with its practices. Sometimes, a world that’s constantly moving forces us to make sudden changes. The pandemic that took place at the beginning of last year, (and that we’re still living in), turned the digital transformation process into our new normality.  

When we switch our way of doing things, we take time to adjust and overcome obstacles that may come with changes. This is why we treat change as a process. In this specific case, ‘virtual fatigue’ is a problem we didn’t anticipate, product of the overnight digital transition. 

‘Virtual fatigue’ is the increase of eye straindue to more time spent in front of a screen. Visual overload is also part of this problem, because ‘’when we look at a screen, whether it’s a computer or a TV screen, our minds are accustomed to processing what is in front of us as a unified whole’’ -Elizabeth Grace Saunders, 2020 

Jaron Lanier is a writer, visual artist, VR pioneer, Microsoft Research Scientistand the mind behind the Together Mode in Microsoft Teams.

Lanier came up with the idea of Together Mode, when he started feeling the ravages of the pandemic. This feature was born from the social perception and group communication, and its design was influenced by Tibetan mandalas and The Muppets.

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams, Jaron Lanier Quote, Team Venti

Benefits of Together Mode in Microsoft Teams

This feature, that may seem silly at first, brings several subtle, but noticeable psychological benefits. Such as helping people feel more connected and at ease. This decreases the time they spend looking at themselves. 

Also, the way the screen is arranged, the interaction that can be made between attendants and even the size of the heads of the avatars, help diminish ‘virtual fatigue’ 

In addition to this, Together Mode creates an illusion that people are looking around the room. This helps the speaker think there’s less ‘’eye contact’’, than in a traditional videoconference layout.  

‘’Jaron believes that the benefits of Together mode stem from the simple truth that people weren’t meant to stare at tiny boxes on screens all day’’  -Rebekah Carter, 2021

Even as a tech master, he is aware of our human needs of interaction, and feel of belonging. This feature was created to help humanize the digital lifestyle we were forced to adopt last year. 

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