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Forget VR. Airglass really made me enjoy video calling

Video calling has become a staple of the modern office, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Companies like Meta want you to think that mixed reality or virtual reality might make these meetings easier, but we all know these technologies don’t feel quite ready yet.

But startup Mobeus has a different idea on how to improve video meetings — and it doesn’t involve any more hardware than the laptop you already own. I spoke with Mobeus Chief Experience Officer Alan Lipofsky about Airglass while testing the new videoconferencing software for myself.

Graphic showing pneumatic glass working on a laptop screen.

How is Airglass different?

Mobeus Airglass is designed to be a richer experience than a standard Zoom meeting. First of all, it is part of the software, and despite what it claims to do, no additional hardware is required. But once you open the app and start a video call, you’ll find a completely different interface than you might be used to.

Instead of a wall of talking heads, Airglass focuses on just one to three people at a time, despite the fact that there can be up to 60 participants in a meeting. When I tried out the Airglass, I could clearly see who was on the other side of the screen and they could see me in large vertical slices that filled the screen from top to bottom.

The meeting takes place in what Mobeus calls a Glasstop, a workspace reminiscent of the augmented reality interfaces seen in science fiction films. This meant my desktop seemed to hover between me and the people I was talking to, hand gestures could interact with the screen, and I could write and draw with glowing colors to emphasize a point or highlight details on the screen.

Despite having to familiarize themselves with the new interfaces, I found myself surprisingly fresh and engaged in the conversation—which is more than I can say about a standard Zoom call.

How does Airglass work?

Mobeus Airglass mixes webcams and desktop applications.

When I launched the Airglass app, the screen was filled with the aptly named Glasstop interface. I was immediately able to see a barely visible, but full-screen view of myself from my MacBook’s webcam. At the same time, in an even more ambiguous form, a contact menu appeared with controls to start a meeting, change video and audio settings, or start a recording. The default transparency shows about 15% of the webcam’s width mixed with 85% of a normal computer screen.

This can be set using a slider, making it easy to fade out the webcam to see yourself or others once the meeting has started, and out when you want to focus more on an app or webcam controls. If you’re the presenter, you can invite people to join, specify the number of visible panes in up to three vertical panes, as well as control the transparency of your desktop and apps.

The most immersive experience is 50% translucent so you can see what screen is being shared and who is speaking in the large full screen view. The idea is to hold a meeting, even with the dozens of attendees feeling more private.

The presenter has the option to control and share the screen and control the transparency. However, as a participant, I was not kicked out of my computer. I can simply move the mouse cursor back to the desktop. When that happens, the speakers’ webcams remain visible in little circles that Mobeus calls teleportation.

This kind of flexibility is seen throughout the app and anyone can share their screen. When screen sharing stopped, my desktop was visible and I could still see the other participants in the meeting.

If transparency is not locked, it can be set so that the webcam view is completely opaque, completely hidden, or somewhere in between. This means that you can easily take notes and search for relevant data to contribute to the meeting. Instead, you can multitask, work on other products, or even surf the web during a casual meeting.

AR features without additional hardware

A person shows the Mobeus Airglass' manual glove tracking feature.

Beyond the translucent glasstop and a three-way display of the speakers, there are thoughtful additions throughout the software. The real magic comes with some clever AR features. Hand gestures are recognized and this works with regular computer webcams. The presenter can raise their hand to see it highlighted on the screen and the virtual hand can be used to highlight parts of the screen or move from one slide to another.

Controls can be accessed easily by selecting the Airglass menu that remains at the top center or you can use a variety of keyboard shortcuts to control everything without reaching for the mouse.

Airglass is not just about your webcam. You can easily select a different camera, even a wireless camera. Since hand gestures can be used to control the app, you can walk around holding your smartphone or present on stage as you flip through PowerPoint slides, all while maintaining eye contact and gauging reflexes.

What is required?

Meta Quest Pro Horizon Workrooms example changed with unhappy emoji on avatars.

Like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and many other video conferencing applications, you need to install Airglass to take advantage of its unique features. The software is initially available for macOS and Windows with a mobile app in progress.

Obviously, you need a webcam, but there is no need for expensive augmented reality glasses and virtual reality headsets to take advantage of this futuristic meeting app. It works on almost any laptop or desktop computer.

Airglass outperforms other meetings

The transparent Glasstop from Mobeus Airglass shows off the presentation and presenter in full screen.

Compared to a standard online meeting in Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet, Airglass feels like the future. It’s a refreshing experience that combines video chats, screen sharing, online whiteboards, and augmented reality features.

Mobeus has reinvented team meetings without the need for VR headsets or AR glasses. Perhaps virtual and augmented reality will become easier and more accessible in the future, but for now, Airglass may just be the solution we’ve been waiting for that makes working from home and telecommuting more personal and productive. It’s going to take a lot for companies to move away from established apps like Teams or Zoom, but the technology here is definitely on to something interesting.

If you want to know more, you can check out the Mobeus website to find out more and download the Airglass for yourself. A subscription is required and is $14.95 per month. There is also an annual plan if you expect to use Airglass regularly.

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