There is a new generation of tools that enriches the toolset of online facilitators. Wow. In this blog I will list a number of them and hope to make you enthusiastic to start experimenting. The first one I discovered was Wonder Me. The first time I used Wonder Me, I was amazed by the different way it made me feel and the freedom I experienced as compared to the normal webconferencing tools. I felt I could "walk around" online by getting close to someone else and I could talk to him or her. A completely different online experience than a Zoom breakout room where you are 'put' in the breakout by the facilitator and hardly dare to leave (I did so today and it was not appreciated :).. If I had too compare it to a face-to-face experience I'd say it resembles the online version of a reception. Then I discovered that a number of nice new tools have been added. The common denominator seems to be that they are tools that change online networking: make it more visual and provide more freedom.
Wonder me is currently free and you can sign up to get your own Wonder room. However, it will come with paid plan at the end of next year. You can invite people to your own room, and customize the room by changing the background. Your photo is show in the room and can walk around by using your mouse. When you are close to a person or group your videos and audios will work. You can recognize a group of people already talking by a circle. So you can choose how long you stay in a group or walk further. The main facilitator can send a message to anyone, then all conversations will be silenced. You can also 'close' a circle to have a private conversation. The impressive thing is that it works for up to 1000 people, with a maximum of 15 in a circle.
Another nice one is Topia. You can add a picture to your own space. Personally, I was not able to try Topia because I had to set a hardware configuration in my Chrome browser and Firefox is not supported. Maybe more for the future? Topia is free for up to 25 people, then $ 29 per month.. Anybody with experiences?
Gather is also making the videocall experience more visual. However, the design is somewhat reminiscent of the (old) world of the pacman. Free for 25 people. Nice that you can start a town, city or metropolis.
Getmibo is more for fun. As they phrase it on their website “for informal meetings, remote drinks, social mixers, networking events, or just hanging around”. You can walk around an island and your head is the webcam. Free up to 12 people, then 49 euros per month. Until recently, Getmibo was called Borrel. They have changed the name because it can also be used for more than just drinks, for example as a network option at an online conference.
These tools are a great asset to me. What they have in common is you have more freedom to "walk around" and meet each other online. They are more visual than Zoom, Webex or Microsoft Teams. You don't need a login and you can start a room. They are not going to replace the existing webconferencing tools, but they do provide opportunities to come together online in a different way and thus new possibilities for the online facilitator.