I need eye contact in video calls!

Typical conference call layout

I have been wondering about this issue since I started using Skype many years ago: during video calls on a laptop or desktop computer, you can either look at the camera, i.e. directly at your vis-à-vis, or you can look at the image of that person, but not at both. Besides, one usually checks their own image from time to time. As a result, most people who sit close to their cameras and screens during conference calls, appear looking elsewhere but not at the camera. Simply put, the eye contact is essentially missing during most video calls.

On computers, this problem can partly be mitigated by moving the call window closer to the camera (but in reality, few people try doing this). At least in the earlier versions of Skype, this was possible. Surprisingly, neither e.g. Zoom nor Lifesize — the enterprise-grade video call solutions — care about this issue: one cannot move the call participants or own image within the app window.

This issue is less acute in mobile devices or large office video call screens. In mobile, given their sizes, the call window is usually close enough to the camera. In the conference room settings, the participants usually sit far from the camera and the screen. In both cases, the feeling of eye contact can be maintained.

I do not know the reasons for such negligence towards this key component of the video call user experience, especially during the time of Covid-19 remote working when video calls became the everyday work routine. Neither have I analysed all existing solutions. But I believe that “restoring the eye contact” could an important competitive advantage for any provider of video conference tools.



I am a UX designer and Usability surveyor

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