One experimental Sparky design addresses a problem
common to all webcam-based video chat applications:
the annoying lack of eye contact.
During a video chat, we tend to look at the image
of the other person on our monitor rather than into
the webcam mounted above or beside it. Because of
this, we seem to gaze over the shoulder of the person
we’re chatting with, which fails to replicate the intimacy of face-to-face communication.
The new Sparky design takes a cue from the way
teleprompters work. For both Sparky’s “head” and the
remote operator’s webcam, an angled piece of one-way glass reflects the video image of the other person
directly toward viewers. Meanwhile, a video camera
placed behind the glass captures the face(s) looking
at the screen, creating a simulation of eye contact.
My experience has shown that this illusion of eye
contact is effective. It encourages users to talk more
normally, look into each other’s eyes, and forget that
there may be thousands of miles physically separating them.