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Here at Toucan we’ve spent the last six months building a fundamentally new platform to support online social interactions.
In the process we’ve been running lots of experiments to figure out how to support “ordinary” social interactions virtually. It hasn’t been easy.
It turns out that our in-person interactions are very nuanced. We don’t just communicate with words. We also communicate with facial expressions, non-verbal utterances, body language, and even silence. But that’s only one part of the puzzle.
When we’re in a social situation – like a birthday party or a corporate happy hour – we move between groups of people, we greet people we aren’t talking to, we internally strategize about the best way to meet someone, join a conversation, or even extract ourselves from an awkward situation.
All of these considerations have informed our work. Collectively, our team has been in the proverbial weeds figuring out how to do this from a psychological, design, and ultimately software implementation perspective. In fact, we’ve been so focused that we didn’t even notice that we’d reached our first critical milestone. Until last night.
Every Thursday we host a company social where the Toucan team meets informally with various industry partners, investors, and the curious. Last night, we played our own version of Jeopardy.
It was magical.
Thanks to Toucan’s spot feature, it was easy to organize the attendees into teams. One of our founders, Antonia, created tags representing shirt colors and asked everyone to join the group based on the color of the shirt they happened to be wearing. This quickly divided all the participants relatively evenly.
Thanks to Toucan’s support for autonomous groups, teams could work together privately. I could speak to my team about likely answers without our competitors hearing us.
Antonia MC’ed the game. She broadcast herself so that all the participants could hear her (as well as their teammates) and used a simple slide deck to run the game.
One member of each team was selected to “push the buzzer” which we did by sending Antonia a heart. Contestants got a chance to answer (or is it ask?) the question based on how quickly they indicated that they knew the answer.
The game was fun, and engaging. By the end I realized that I’d just witnessed something historical.
From the perspective of Toucan, I realized that we’d put together a set of capabilities that could now support very rich social interaction. We’d reached a milestone without realizing it.
From an industry perspective, I realized that I’d just experienced an evolutionary split. Virtual social interactions were no longer constrained by software developed for structured professional meetings. Yesterday it became clear to me that Toucan is the first species in a brand new genus. We are fundamentally different from our ancestors, and our evolution is no longer tied to theirs.
Rabbi, driving instructor, and acrobat in parallel universes.
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