With video calls now an unfortunate 2020 staple, unmuting your microphone to briefly agree with someone has become a common, awkward nuisance. Fortunately, a new video lens is providing a pretty stylish solution to this irritation.
Netflix engineer Cameron Hunter has made a video lens which detects gestures and displays word balloons in response, such as “Yes” for a thumbs up or “No” for closed fist. This means you can give your colleague’s proposal for an Even More Casual Friday either clear support or emphatic disapproval without having to fumble for your unmute button.
“I realized that we take in more information visually than we can audibly,” Hunter told Mashable. “My team members would wave or use thumbs up in video meetings as I’m sure many do. I’d also been learning ASL as part of a baby sign language course.”
In video meetings it’s a hassle to unmute just to say one word especially if someone else is speaking. I created a video lens that uses hand gestures to show comic-book style messages instead. So far it’s been pretty fun! pic.twitter.com/wp6XO5QDQc
— Cameron Hunter (@cameronhunter) September 15, 2020
Hunter demonstrated the lens in a video uploaded to Twitter on Monday, which has since gone viral. On top of the aforementioned “Yes” and “No” gestures, the lens also displays “Hello” (an open palm), “Goodbye” (a peace sign), “Question” (index finger pointed up), “Awesome” (sign of the horns), “Ha ha ha ha” (laughing), and “I’ll be right back” (leaving the frame).
Hunter used Snap’s Lens Studio to create the lens, inspired by how often his colleagues would accidentally speak over each other in large video call meetings. Such incidents inevitably led to awkward apologies and stilted conversations, which he hoped his lens might minimize. It was also “incredibly easy” to make, taking only one evening to create and another to refine.
Though he originally intended the lens for his personal use, Hunter was pleased with the enormous, supportive response it received.
“It was amazing how quickly something can snowball on Twitter,” said Hunter, who had only written it up because his manager wanted to know how to install it. “There was good feedback around accessibility and ensuring that the lens didn’t exclude anyone.”
“It would be amazing if video platforms like Zoom, Hangouts, Slack, etc. added a feature like this into their platforms — even better if it used ASL and other localized sign languages,” he said.
Hunter told Mashable he hopes to eventually add more gestures to his lens if he can. Exactly which ones he’ll include is still up for debate though.
“Many people have asked me to add support for ‘time’s up’ and ‘you’re on mute,'” said Hunter. “The middle finger is also a highly requested feature but I’ll just leave that one alone.”