The Covid 19 pandemic would have been even more difficult to overcome for businesses if it hadn’t been for video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Facetime, and the likes. We have been able to stay in touch with our colleagues, customers, family, and friends thanks to the Internet and video chat platforms. Our social isolation would have been far worse if it hadn’t been for the webcam and the microphone!
The rise in video conferencing and online meetings has a flip side though. After spending long hours on digital devices, most of us feel “Brain Fatigue” or “Zoom Fatigue” as it’s commonly termed.
What is “Zoom Fatigue”?
A Microsoft’s Human Factors Lab study, concludes that it is true that remote work and video meetings tax our brains more than in-person work.
In fact, it states that in the days filled with video meetings, stress begins to set in at about two hours into the day compared to five hours in normal in-person conferences and meetings.
The research also provides 3 important insights into why video-conferencing leads to fatigue:
- Fatigue due to having to focus continuously on the screen to extract relevant audio & visual information and to stay engaged.
- Reduced non-verbal cues that help you read the room or know whose turn it is to talk and the confusion and inability to physically locate a speaker.
- Screen sharing with very little understanding of the people you are interacting with due to visual & auditory reception-impulse blur in our brains during video-conferencing.
The rise of video meetings has highlighted the medium’s flaws, which prevent us from having more natural conversations.
When we hold meetings in person, everyone is usually in the same room. Individual voices are separated by distance and can be heard at different points around the meeting table. Because of the spatial presentation, we can identify and decipher who is speaking fairly easily and naturally.
However, regardless of the number of participants on a video call, all virtual voices come from the same speaker and are at the same distance from the listener. This synthetic soundscape produces a muddy, unclear, and unnatural listening experience. All that concentration deciphering sound is seriously hard work and leads to “Zoom Fatigue” concluded Microsoft’s Study.
How should “Natural & authentic” Audio actually feel like unlike during those long mind-numbing Video-Calls?
- Positional: Sounds should change depending on how close you are to a sound source.
- Directional: When you tilt or turn your head, the direction of your sound should change.
- Spherical: The height of a sound, whether above or below, is essential to how we hear but is not found presently during video calls.
So, is there a way to fix this?
Is there a way to make video calls sound more natural and easier to understand? Is there a way to make conversations more energetic and impactful?
Well, the answer is Yes, thanks to Spatial Audio ( and another great options is the virtual camera ) The use of Spatial Audio technology can help alleviate the flat and mono-directional cacophony of audio during a virtual meeting.
Imagine you’re on a video call with eight colleagues, and when the person in the lower-left corner of the screen speaks, his voice comes through your headphones or sounds as if it’s coming from that direction in space. There is no need for a quick visual scan to determine who is speaking; Spatial Audio tells you right away. The volume, timing, and resonance of each voice can be exact as it reaches the ear using digital sound optimization technology, allowing the listener to accurately ‘place’ the voice precisely where it should be.
Spatial Audio integration can provide more audible cues. For example, if a person reclines backwards in their chair to have a conversation with someone in their physical space, their voice becomes softer and sounds further away. When a person leans in front of their computer screen to emphasise a point, the opposite happens. The webcam’s motion detection and head-tracking capabilities could inform the Spatial Audio processor, which would then adjust the volume and location of the voice.
With impulse and frequency response correction, unnatural noise and colouration in online audio can be removed, increasing intelligibility and making the conversation sound much more natural.
“Zoom Fatigue” is not imaginary, it’s a real thing. It saps us of all our energies and stresses us to no end. Studies show this is majorly due to the unnatural synthetic auditory stimuli we receive during those long brain freezing conversations over incessant Video Calls.
Thankfully, great upcoming technology can finally free us from this fatigue and make our conversations natural and much less taxing for our brains.
Spatial Audio allows the listener to precisely ‘place’ the voice exactly where it should be and makes the audio just like a natural conversation by incorporating positional, directional and spherical audio features.
In future using Spatial Audio will make our online audio experience natural and energetic, and make the video calls much less fatiguing. Happy Video-calling!