Everyone misses having or going to big parties. Meeting up with friends on Zoom has likely already gotten old. Remember those days when you’d go for a refill at a house party, joining different conversations as you move throughout the house. What if you could do that virtually, right now in your browser? High Fidelity is a new platform that looks to offer you just that experience.
Video calls just don’t scale well if they are social…once you get more than a handful of people, it’s hard to have those little side conversations without having to be in the spotlight for all attendee’s to see and hear. Audio only calls are also hard to manage since there are no visual cues for who is speaking so you end up talking over each other eventually.
What High Fidelity brings to the table is a top down view of a virtual space. It’s kind of like The Sims if you’ve ever played that game. You can choose one of their templates or upload your own – it can be a photo of your favourite backyard, a pool deck, your office layout or just about anywhere.
Guests use a browser – literally just about any device can participate as there is no app to install, you just need to have a microphone and ideally headphones. You can use a touch interface on your phone or a tablet, you navigate the virtual space with a keyboard and mouse.
The magic happens when you have more than a few friends in your virtual space. As they appear on the ‘map’, they have a small avatar which can be their initials or a photo they upload. As they start to move around the map, audio can be heard from others talking elsewhere. Move towards another group of people and their audio gets louder. Turn around and move away from that group, their audio gets quieter – just like the real world. The notion of the kitchen party is back!
I recently tried this as a test with about 6 friends and it worked really well. We all agreed this would work really well with a lot more people, but for our test, it was a good sample size to sort out a few things.
One thing you can do with a second device, is have a DJ. As long as that device can route audio to the microphone output (using something like Soundflower for the Mac), you can position that avatar anywhere and then people can get closer to it to hear music. We had a little problem with this aspect as we’d also hear the audio from everyone talking through the ‘DJ bot’ but that should be solvable with more time to sort out the settings.
High Fidelity is currently in beta and is free for now.