Laptop open with the screen displaying the Zoom logo and letters.
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Zoom introduces animal avatars to ‘inject fun’ into work meetings

23 Mar 2022

Zoom or zoo? The video conferencing platform’s new animal avatars feature could make for an interesting work call.

Zoom has introduced a new feature for people who have always wanted to invoke their ‘wild side’ on conference calls.

The video conferencing platform soared in popularity during the pandemic lockdowns as workers all over the world began using it to hold virtual meetings with their colleagues.

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Now, it is letting users select animal avatars to represent themselves on Zoom meetings and webinars.

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The new feature is compatible with Windows and MacOS desktop devices as well as iOS mobile devices. Users will need to ensure their device is running the Zoom app on version 5.10.0 or higher.

When a user turns on the avatars feature during a meeting, Zoom’s technology uses their device’s camera to detect where their face is on the screen to apply the selected avatar.

According to a post on Zoom’s blog, the company is only offering animal avatars at the moment. However, it warned users to “keep an eye out for updates” and new avatars in the future.

“This fun new feature makes it easy to inject fun into your meetings and webinars and lighten the mood, whether you’re at home, in the office, or in the classroom,” the company said.

Remote working has changed the way we communicate with colleagues, and recent Irish research highlighted that there is still a need for social chat and interactions in video calls.

Zoom noted that video communications can make spontaneity difficult, and that the new avatars would be an “easy and entertaining way to engage with attendees and create a bit of fun”.

“They also provide a good middle ground for users who don’t want to appear on camera, but still want to express body language and facial expressions,” the company added.

According to Zoom, it does not store images of people’s faces if they use the new avatar feature as facial recognition technology is not used. The avatar feature can only identify what a face is, it does not recognise or distinguish between individual faces.

The company suggested scenarios outside of work when the feature could be used, such as in paediatric care, teaching children and even during hybrid work events.

“Delight your colleagues and bring some fun to your team-building meetings and events by dressing up as your favourite animal, or use an animal avatar when you’d like to take a break from appearing on camera during video meetings,” the company said.

Zoom is adding this new capability to its other existing features, such as virtual backgrounds and filters.

For some users, it could invoke reminders of the Texas lawyer who inadvertently turned himself into a cat during a virtual hearing last year. Rod Ponton’s zoomorphic mishap occurred when he accidentally appeared on screen with a cat filter switched on in Zoom.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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