Gather Town
This isn't just any old videoconferencing platform. (Illustration by Xingzhou Cheng, Fashion Institute of Technology)
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Gather Town

The new platform makes your usual video conference into something that could actually resemble real-life, in-person interactions.

During the global pandemic, people exchanged in-person conferences and handshakes for remote learning and digital meetings. To say that Zoom has presented itself as the frontrunner for virtual educational and business interactions would be an understatement, but it too is just a virtual reminder of how the internet falls short in establishing the in-person connections people are craving. This is where Gather Town not only shines, but improves upon the mechanics of Zoom by replicating the feel of real-world interaction and establishing a sense of normalcy within the boundaries of a virtual reality that the world now must face.

What is Gather Town?

Gather Town is a virtual world made for people who need real-world interaction. Users of Gather Town have the option to implement elements of their work in a virtual reality. Gather Town uses mechanics found in popular virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom and Google Docs and combines them to create virtual chatrooms that resemble real-life classrooms, offices, universities, family gatherings and businesses. In this way, Gather Town can bring the interactions of real life into virtual spaces that are not only realistic, but simple to use.

How does it work?

Gather Town starts with its rooms. Much like 8-bit pixelized video games, users can select a vast array of rooms to fit the atmosphere of almost any place of human interaction. Trying to teach? Gather Town has a classroom for that. Trying to meet with family members virtually? Gather Town has a home for that. Trying to run a business? Gather Town has an office for that. With passwords protecting the virtual rooms, users can come and go at will, customizing events and the look and feel of the environment.

After selecting an avatar, users can seamlessly move in and out of interactions with other people in their rooms. The rooms themselves will be set up and showcase projects selected by the host. These spots can feature televisions, whiteboards, papers, all with sharable data that can be made available on other data-sharing platforms, such as Google Docs or YouTube. Sharing this information in real time coupled with the virtual chat rooms creates a world that operates just as it would in real life. Gather Town simulates reality by following the mechanics of in-person behaviors. Leaving and joining meetings is as easy as walking away from a person’s avatar.  With its interactive mechanics, Gather Town shows off the unique settings that establish a strong basis for its success.

Where could Gather Town work?

Gather Town works in every social setting. After selecting from an inclusive arrangement of avatars, people can include real work elements such as YouTube videos, word documents for sharing progress and whiteboards for interactive learning. As the users of Gather Town will soon realize, traversing the world opens up interactions much like the real world would. This unique function separates Gather Town from its competition, not only building a world people can build on, but creating a world people can share in any social situation.

Users interact with each other just as they would in real life. Gather Town structures its design around its users and their interactions and when users are close together, they can interact with each other just as they would in real life at close proximity. Moving further apart cuts the virtual meetings short; however, users can establish spaces for big meetings with up to 100 members at a time. Using this feature to recreate an office setting can mimic the social interactions of a close office space without the risk of contracting COVID-19.

This also works in university and classroom settings, where teachers can simulate the desks and whiteboards of a classroom. Though the interactions between students are still virtual, it’s more engaging for children to play games through electronic means rather than endure the hardships of just learning through Zoom. This also limits the glitches and drops found with Zoom; this stability is a must-have for people with important information in dire need of being shared.

Holidays can also be rescued virtually, at a safe distance. With Gather Town’s customizable landscaping features, people can demolish and create a home that accommodates the entire family; they can have relatives participate in livestreams of their activities — creating a closeness that would otherwise be missed or rescheduled due to the coronavirus. This means that the entire premise of Gather Town not only provides a safe structure for people to interact at a safe distance, but it offers a place where people can be productive with others in a way that is more seamless than Zoom alone.

How Gather Town could change the way we interact

Gather Town’s extensive features allow users to design a world that is unique to their social situation. By using the free world application and extensive avatar selection, people can live in a world that is not only inclusive, but interactive in a way Zoom and other platforms are not. This not only makes Gather Town a front runner at innovation, but it leaves users with a solid interactive system that can be built upon in future installments.

Using Gather Town’s interactive virtual world can not only improve the isolation of the pandemic, but it can bring new elements to something that is used every day. With the death toll for COVID-19 breaching 400,000 and the vaccine making a crawl to the finish line, virtual learning and interactions will still be in place until further notice. Using Gather Town not only makes the virtual lifestyle more exciting, but it offers a creative ground for participating in projects in a human way until we can once again return to normalcy.

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