If you run a small business, then you may have already considered getting video conferencing software. For remote workers especially, staying engaged with colleagues and peers is essential to maintaining work relationships and staying productive.
Considering the major changes currently taking place around the world, businesses are looking for convenient ways to connect to their teams and keep operations moving. On a regular basis, 55 percent of organizations allow their staff to work from home. Now more than ever, the demand to connect is at an all-time high.
However, it’s important to know what to look for when searching for video software. Otherwise, you may end up using an application ill-suited for your business and its employees.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the things you need to consider before choosing conferencing tools to guarantee success for your small business. Let’s get started.
Perhaps the most important concern for most businesses is what certain technologies will cost them. Unexpected costs are responsible for 56 percent of all cart abandonment, which makes it a pressing issue for many businesses. Luckily, many video conferencing tools are available for free if your company is small or doesn’t have strict requirements.
Before committing to anything, estimate how much you may need to spend on software so you can budget for it. The worst thing you can do is purchase without planning, which may leave you paying for something you don’t need. Keep in mind that 95 percent of marketers plan to increase their video spending next year, so it may be worth it to pay more for what you need.
Take a look at how many people you expect to attend online meetings and how much space you’ll need. If you run a small-to-medium-sized business, then most video tools will work for you. However, if you need something that will seamlessly host hundreds, or even thousands, of attendees, then you’ll need to do more research.
Consider how big your conference sizes will be. If you think you can get away with hosting smaller sized meetings, try to organize it. If not, there are options available for larger gatherings.Hosting a meeting you aren’t prepared for makes your company look unprofessional. You want to show your team that you’re a competent leader, and choosing the right tools will keep all of them on track.
Do you know what features are non-negotiable for your company? Some can’t do without the ability to chat while others want to record their live sessions for future use. It’s important to identify what features you need and which ones you can do without. That way, when it’s time to make a decision, you’ll make the best one for your company.
Some popular features you may want to consider include:
- Recording: Many companies prefer to record their meetings, especially longer ones, so people can rewatch it and continue to learn from it. It’s also resourceful for those who couldn’t attend certain meetings but want to learn the information.
- Chatting: Speaking up can waste valuable meeting time and steer you away from the main topic, which is why chatting is useful for video conferences. It also reduces interruptions as people can simply type what they’re thinking.
- Screen sharing: Many companies hold internal webinars and quarterly reviews that require them to show attendees their screen. It’s much easier than navigating users through words and instructions alone.
- Background images: Recently, companies like Zoom have implemented the ability to upload custom background images. This makes for a fun environment during meetings.
- Emojis: Some software lets attendees use emojis to express their feelings and avoid interruptions.
If there’s an issue using video for you or your team, you want to make sure you have a backup to find a solution. Most businesses can’t afford to skip conferences where they exchange essential information that keeps their operations afloat.
So, the software you choose must come with excellent customer support. In most cases, you get what you pay for, so if you opt for a free service, you may not receive the help you’re looking for.
Research your software’s ratings and reviews to gauge how well it takes care of its customers. Seeing recurring complaints is a good sign to steer clear and find other options.
Back to You
You want the best for your business and that includes its tools. When it comes to video software, considering things such as cost and customer service ensures that you pick the right fit for your company. How will you decide what elements are most important for your brand?
5 online tips for keeping in touch with people you care about
Keeping in touch sometimes requires conscious effort. We meet a lot of people physically and virtually. Today as we embrace the new normal of working remotely, staying at home and practicing social distancing, staying close to those you care about can be a challenge. Technology can help. Here are 5 online tips that will help you keep in touch with those you care about.
Connect with your friends, co-workers and family using Google Duo. It is a free video calling app that allows you to spend time face-to-face when you can’t be together in person. The app has a feature called, “Knock, Knock” where you can get a preview of who is on the other side of the line before accepting the call. There is also Google Meet, a conferencing platform for secure video meetings.
Play online games
You can easily find your friends on Google Play Games. You and your friends can compete on leaderboards, compare achievements and find new games together. Games are more fun with the Google Play Games app. Whether it’s a puzzle or an action game, with “Instant Play” you can play your next favourite game without having to install anything.
Stay in touch by sharing entertaining, educational or inspiring YouTube videos. Simply go to the YouTube Channel page, in the browser address bar, copy the URL and paste it wherever you want to share it. Sharing videos with your friends and family can become a fun and exciting activity that creates a bond.
Keep track of events
With Google Calendar, you can quickly schedule meetings and events with your friends, family and co-workers. The Google Meet link is available in your Calendar and you use it to host virtual meetings. You can share your calendar with others so they can find your schedule and fit in with theirs. While Google Calendar is used for work purposes, it is also a good organizational tool that makes sure you get reminders for planned events.
Using Google Photos, pictures you take are saved automatically and can be shared privately and securely with those you care about so you can relive happy memories together. You can make collages, movies or animations of your images and share them either by email, text or your favourite social network. Hundreds of photos can be shared at once with shareable links and high quality is always guaranteed. Note that the person you intend sharing photos with must also be using a Gmail account.
Iron Man VR is a tinfoil version of a truly great Iron Man game
“I am not Iron Man,” I mutter to myself after crashing into a wall for the umpteenth time while waving my arms around. But it’s not for a lack of effort.
Iron Man VR is a game with a simple premise: putting players inside the famous metal suit of Marvel’s Armored Avenger, letting you fly around and battle supervillains with laser blasts and gadgets galore. It’s also the first real console title from Camouflaj, which had previously developed the high-profile mobile game, République, back in 2013 (which has since been ported to PC, Xbox One, PlayStation, and a variety of VR platforms).“I AM NOT IRON MAN.”
It’s the sort of idea that’s uniquely suited to virtual reality. What better way to capture a hero who’s most famous for their helmet and wrist-mounted weaponry than the headset and motion controllers of VR?
Unfortunately, while Iron Man VR has moments where it really captures what it might be like to suit up as Iron Man himself, it’s held back by finicky controls, repetitive levels, and gameplay that just isn’t that much fun to play for very long.
While early trailers might give the impression that Iron Man VR is a gussied-up on-rails shooter, the reality is that Camouflaj has given players nearly complete freedom to soar through the skies as Iron Man. Using a pair of PlayStation Move controllers, you use the two triggers to control your repulsors in a unique style of VR flight. Angle them with your palms facing behind you, and you’ll fly forward; shove forward, and you’ll stop then fly backward. Steering is done through a combination of angling your thrusters and by aiming with your head. Since players are standing vertically the whole time, it’s still not quite analogous to the soaring Iron Man flight in the films or comics, but it’s as close as you can probably get with a VR setup.PLAYERS HAVE NEAR-COMPLETE FREEDOM TO SOAR THROUGH THE SKIES
It also runs into a few limitations due to the nature of VR. The first is that the PS VR is a tethered headset, so players can only do limited turns. More drastic maneuvering has to be done with button presses that jump the camera either 45 or 180 degrees so they don’t yank the cables out. It’s also just plain difficult, at least at the start. While Camouflaj liberally peppers the game with speed gauntlets to help players adjust in the early levels, there’s a steep learning curve. (Some of the developer times in those flight challenges seem frankly impossible to me to beat, although I have no doubt players will.)
It also requires that players basically remain standing the entire time they play. While Camouflaj does note that the game can be played seated, the fact that you’re pointing your hands behind you a lot of the time means that it’s nearly impossible to play on a couch. I had more success moving to a folding chair in the middle of my living room that I could reach behind, but the game still struggled to track my hands as well.
I didn’t suffer from any motion sickness while playing, but I tend to personally handle VR movement well. If you’re new to the genre or have a particular sensitivity to nausea, the quick turning movement might not be to your liking.
Flying is only part of the equation, though. The other half is combat, which requires players to balance how they play since Iron Man uses the same repulsors to fly as he does to shoot blasters. It’s a constant juggling act: do you hover in place, making yourself a bigger target to unleash more firepower? Or boost away with both thrusters?
Iron Man actually has two main weapon types: quick-firing repulsors and secondary weapons, both bound to the same button. Hold up your hands palm out, and you’ll use repulsor blasts; tilt your palm down, and your wrist-mounted secondary weapon will pop up. It’s one of Iron Man VR’s best touches, and it did the best job at capturing the character. Lastly, players can also throw rocket-powered punches by holding down a controller button to smash nearby enemies.
There’s a customization system, too, where players can unlock “research points” to add new gear to their armor or swap out their weapons. But all of those options are unlocked from the start. Once I had a good setup going, the game doesn’t give much of a reason to unlock the rest. (Amusingly, there’s also a variety of different color schemes for the suits, but given that you almost never see the armor from a third-person perspective, it’s a bit of a useless feature.)
But while the pieces are all good, the issues with Iron Man VR arrive when they come together in the game, which just isn’t deep enough to support a full-blown title.
In practice, Iron Man VR is very repetitive. There’s only a handful of enemy types, whose tactics never really change. One drone will batter players with laser blasts, another will attempt to ram you, while a third has to be dodged before its shield is down. Each enemy is effectively designed to be countered by a specific weapon in your arsenal (you shoot the shooting drone, you punch the ramming drone, you ground-pound the tank), and the only variety really comes in how many the game throws at you at once.
The result is that each of the 12 levels (which are broken up into 15- to 30-minute chunks, well-suited for VR) more or less breaks down in a cycle of “defeat these identical waves of enemies using identical weapons in identical locations” until the next expository speech happens.‘IRON MAN VR’ IS VERY REPETITIVE
The game also breaks up the Iron Man action with plenty of time spent jumping around Tony’s mansion or Nick Fury’s helicarrier doing the gimmicky sorts of VR tasks that the genre had outgrown years ago. Teleporting around an open space to press a button to answer a speakerphone or put away a box of mementos just feels like padding. Those sorts of VR-y tasks make their way into the regular gameplay, too, punctuating the waves of drone fights by having players “pull” a door open, “grab” some wires, or “punch” an energy core.
Iron Man VR does try to mix things up with different locations, varying from the Shanghai skyline to a helicarrier soaring in the sky to an abandoned weapon facility. But levels repeat frequently, too; the first time spent soaring through the cliffs by Tony’s Malibu mansion is great, but by the third time the game brings it out, it starts to drag.
Some of those levels also just look bad. Part of that is due to the PlayStation VR’s lower resolution and horsepower. Some levels are better than others, but it can be rough to look at. In particular, the Shanghai level — all blocky, featureless buildings and empty pixelated roads — feels like something out of a PlayStation 2 game.
The experience is held together by an original Iron Man story, which should sound very familiar if you’ve watched an Iron Man movie (or read a comic book) in the past few years. Tony Stark has retired from making weapons, but a villain from his past — in this case, the hacker villain Ghost — wants to hold him accountable for the destruction his former misdeeds caused.
Various classic Iron Man characters show up, including Tony himself, Pepper Potts, Tony’s AI Friday, Nick Fury (all looking like off-brand versions of their big-screen counterparts), along with a new character, a holographic copy of Tony named Gunsmith that helps players design upgrades and serves as a “devil” on Tony’s shoulder to the more positive Friday during missions. (Gunsmith also solves the VR problem of never getting to see Tony’s face during gameplay by giving players a second “Tony Stark” to interact with.)
The biggest problems with Iron Man VR, however, are the truly terrible load times — at least on the standard PS4 that I was playing on. I routinely spent 10–20 seconds staring at a pitch-black screen just to load the loading screen, which can take up to another full minute to load into the actual level. That waiting is made even worse by the fact that you’re stuck wearing a VR headset and standing in your living room the entire time.
There are a lot of good ideas in Iron Man VR. But between the rough controls, repetitive gameplay, and lackluster graphics, it’s the sort of thing that feels like it would have been better suited to a shorter, more polished experience. It can make you feel like Iron Man at times — but that’s not enough to carry a full-length game.
iOS 14 has a new home screen with widgets, a redesigned Siri, and more
Apple has announced iOS 14 onstage at WWDC 2020, giving the first (official) look at the latest version of its software for the iPhone, and it’s bringing the biggest change to the iOS home screen in years: widgets.
Widgets come in a variety of sizes and can still be viewed in the Today view, but in iOS 14, Apple allows widgets to be added to the main Home screen to live right alongside your apps. To add them, there’s a new “widget gallery” where users can easily add and customize widgets. There’s also a new “Smart Stack” widget that automatically shows relevant apps based on the time of day.
Apple also announced a new “App Library” view that automatically organizes apps into groups and lists. Thanks to that new App Library view, Apple allows users to now hide apps on their “main” home screen. It looks pretty similar to Android’s app drawer, but with some additional smart grouping features — like automatically pulling out all your Apple Arcade games into one batch.PICTURE-IN-PICTURE VIDEO IS COMING TO IOS
In another new feature, Apple is adding system-wide picture-in-picture to iOS videos. Much like on macOS, videos will hover over apps and can be adjusted in size or collapsed into the side of the display to continue playing in the background. It’ll also work with FaceTime calls, too.
Apple is also launching a new “App Clip” feature, which are speedy, card-based snippets of apps that let you access small parts of apps when you need them without requiring users to install a full app. Examples given included accessing a parking app through an NFC tag, or a coffee store’s reward program. App Clips support Sign In With Apple to avoid having to make new accounts, can be accessed again through the new App Library, and work with Apple Pay. To go with App Clips, Apple is launching a new QR-code format that uses both visual codes and NFC to access App Clips quickly.
Also coming in iOS 14: the long-requested option to users to set their own default email and browsers, although Apple hasn’t provided too many details on how that works just yet.
Siri also has a new view: instead of taking over your whole screen when you activate the digital assistant, there’s just a small overlay at the bottom of the display of the animated Siri icon. There are also new features: Siri can now send audio messages in addition to just dictated messages.
Similar, incoming phone calls and FaceTime calls will also appear with a less obtrusive new pop-up, instead of taking over the entire screen.
Apple also announced a new Translate app that will be built into iOS, which — much like Google Translate — will allow users to easily translate between languages. Users will be able to enter text in or dictate messages and have them translated into 11 languages. English, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese,Korean, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian will all be supported at launch.
Messages is also getting new features: in iOS 14, you’ll be able to pin important contacts and conversations to the top of the Messages app to easily talk to your favorite friends or group chats. There are also new Memoji accessories — including an apt face mask option. Apple is also adding new threaded conversations in group chats and mention notifications to ping specific people in the chat.
Apple Maps is getting new, curated guides from companies like Zagat or AllTrails to give better recommendations for new places. Maps is also getting support for cycling, with dedicated directions for bike-riding that takes into account elevation, bike paths, stairs, and roads. Cycling will launch in NYC, LA, San Fransisco’s Bay Area, Shanghai, and Beijing. There’s also a new EV Routing feature, which will track the current charge of your car, factor in elevation and weather, and route you to compatible stations. Apple’s working with BMW and Ford, although no specific cars were announced.UNLOCK YOUR CAR WITH YOUR IPHONE
CarPlay is getting support for custom wallpapers and new app categories: parking apps, EV chargers, and fast food takeout apps. Apple is also adding support for NFC car keys with iOS 14, with the 2021 BMW 5 Series set to be the first to support the feature. NFC passes are stored in Apple’s Secure Enclave for security and can be shared to other iOS users, giving them temporary access to your vehicle. The new car key feature will also be coming to iOS 13, and to make sure you won’t get locked out of your car, it’ll use a special power reserve feature to allow access up to five hours after your phone has died.
The Home app is also getting new features, including support for “Adaptive Lighting,” which allows for compatible smart lights to adjust color temperature over the course of the day, and facial recognition for HomeKit security cameras.
There’s also a host of smaller features, too. Safari on iOS 14 will now inform you if one of your passwords has been leaked in a data breach, similar to Chrome. Developers now have an option to share subscriptions through Family Sharing. Game Center is getting a new design. And there’s a new “Sleep mode” that turns on do-not-disturb, dims your phone’s screen, and shows your upcoming alarm for morning.
The last few iOS updates have been very hit-or-miss, with last year’s notoriously problematic iOS 13 following the incredible solid (from a performance standpoint) iOS 12, which in turn brought much-needed stability to the buggy iOS 11.
iOS 14 will be out this fall, but a developer preview will be available to Apple Developer Program members starting today, with plans for a public beta for all iOS users in July. iOS 14 will work on the iPhone 6S and up — the same devices that supported iOS 13.
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