Zoom’s reaction emoji are one of the platform’s handiest features, allowing you to quickly applaud a colleague or send a friend a heart. With the latest update to its desktop apps, Zoom is making it easier to track down some of those reactions. Its gesture recognition feature will show a thumbs-up emoji in the meeting when you give one to your webcam, or signal a thumbs-up emoji when you raise your hand.
Gesture recognition won’t be new to those using Zoom’s iPad and iPhone apps, which have supported the same two gestures since last summer. And those who have used it know that it can be as frustrating as it is helpful. Zoom tends to read “I’m scratching my face” as “I’m raising my hand” and, at least in my experience, only responds to the most aggressive thumbs up. Still, when it works, it helps Zoom bridge the gap between natural and digital communication, and it’s no surprise the company is still investing in the idea. I look forward to one day being able to send screen kisses to save a heart emoji.
There are a number of other features in the latest version of Zoom, including a big improvement to the Zoom whiteboard. Whiteboard has been around for a while as an add-on to a meeting, but now it’s a separate product within Zoom. Zoom is trying to make it easier to manage breakout rooms and polls, and to run big events on the platform a bit more seamlessly, too. Zoom is also continuing to roll out its chat etiquette tool, which automatically enforces company policies on communication. (Keep an eye out for that one, because as we’ve seen from companies like Google, the AI font is often wrong and often ridiculous.)
The big picture here is that Zoom is doing what platforms tend to do: sucking the best ideas from the rest of the industry, even those developed on top of its platform, into its core product. Apps like Mmhmm have been exploring gesture recognition for some time, for example, while companies like Miro and Figma have turned digital whiteboards into a surprisingly huge industry. Zoom has spent the past two years making noise about being an open platform for developers, but continues to take the best ideas for itself with the aim of being the main place where we communicate in line.