Communication Technologies Evolving at the Pandemic Speed

Communication Technologies Evolving at the Pandemic Speed

The ongoing pandemic has cut our communication with almost everything. Almost giving up in despair, our days were enlightened with the news of vaccines.

Professional and academic conferences were significantly affected by this. We would leave all our responsibilities and meet with different people working in our area for a few days during conferences, share scientific studies, and maybe experience a foreign country. I think it was one of the best parts of a research position. Unfortunately, the pandemic has taken this away, but for now.

Internet technology experts are developing new tools to create the conference environment in virtual ways. One of these is wonder.me that aims to replicate the conference coffee breaks fully. In this tool, participants can move their avatars around a 2D room and form circles when they gather close. A video conference automatically starts between the members of the circle. The organizer is able to categorize the chat groups by defining areas with related topics, similar to meeting rooms in conferences. It is also possible to ask icebreaker questions to every guest.

Our ATS STEM partner meeting planned to be held in Krems was held virtually. As a part of the social program, we watched a video introducing the Wachau valley, had a “Kaiserschmarrn” baking event, which everyone tried at home, and got to learn the different names this dish is called in the neighboring countries. It was a new and fun activity with our colleagues working far away. We shared our experiences on wonder.me circles. With the broadcast feature, we raised our glasses and mugs to the good days to come.

Gather.town is another similar tool we just discovered. It allows us to create and socialize in a virtual university or business environment. This tool, which has the looks of fun old MS-DOS games, provides a gamified socializing environment instead of sitting for hours at meetings, and it makes you feel a little nostalgia. The organizers can reuse existing conference areas such as social rooms, presentation areas, and poster session areas, or they can customize them to their needs. Different objects such as whiteboards or live streams are also available.

Last but not least, we will possibly continue to work with virtual tools in the following years. Pandemic reminded us of our nature, so fewer conferences mean less air travel and smaller carbon footprint.

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