As the data consumption of video calls significantly increased since 2020 (citation needed), I always question when I make a video call - is this video data really needed? One of the features of NVIDIA Maxine is to reduce the bandwidth by using face tracking and recover the image from face landmarks. In other words, just like a 3D avatar, you animate an avatar of yourself. Or, as someone commented in the video, it is a real-time deepfake. While technically an interesting approach, I would alert that this is the same direction as the curation function of the social media, which attempts to show you what you want to see. This essay is not an attempt to find an answer to how videos should be in a call, but to list how I have been approaching to video calls in the last years.
“Best Practices in Contemporary Dance” is an ongoing project with Jorge Guevara started in July 2020 to find a fluid discourse between dance and technology. Within a video call platform for performance (LiveLab developed by CultureHub), we modify, alter, corrupt and glitch ourselves as pixels using Hydra, which is a analog-synth like live-coding environment developed by Olivia Jack (who is also an author of LiveLab).
The project with Jorge inspired me to create a video call platform that has Hydra integrated so that, not only in a performance context, but also in a casual video call, we can alter our appearance by code. This is not just a playful feature, but it can be thought as another non-verbal channel for communication. Note that a similar project was done by Gilbert Sinnott (Hydritsi), which is based on Jitsi; however, I found that hosting Jitsi is not straightforward because of the setup and the required specs, and Hydritsi is already loaded with a few libraries (face tracking, p5.js and Hydra), which complicates the system and may not be beginner-friendly. I decided to integrate Hydra inside LiveLab (cover image and the image below). Currently there is no demo link, and there are some bugs. From the initial “testing”, Hydra inside LiveLab was an interesting experience that creates a sense of being in the same space while it is different from approaches like virtual reality or spatial video calls like workadventure.