REMOTO

Remoto is designed to bring back the daily greetings, bouncing ideas, and unplanned chit-chats naturally happening in an office. It does this by restoring a shared space and encouraging movement within that space through its mapped-out functionality. The result is bringing back lost interactions that reignite a collaboration-first team culture.
Innovative
STUDENTS INVOLVED
Berkin Gurakan
Richard Larsen
Shiming Zhao
Yulin Ran
Conor Mc Donald Heffernan
ABOUT
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New interaction experiences for the low touch economy
Our collective shift into an environment of low-touch technology and interaction has been accelerated by necessity during the pandemic. Working environments have changed drastically and people continue to strive for balance across aspects of their lives. Working teams are more distributed than ever, and this has a marked effect on their performance and individual productivity and mental health. There is a space for a new generation of user interface to help people cope with these new challenges. How might we help remote teams shape and maintain a team culture that leads to high engagement between team members?
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The reality of remote collaboration
Remote work is a reality. Covid has accelerated its adoption but it is here to stay. Whether it be for local teams with a hybrid work model or teams working across borders and time zones, relying on video conferencing tools like Zoom has become the new modus operandi. But something has been lost in our transition to digital collaboration. We’ve found ourselves stuck in cycles of planned interactions, to discuss specific topics, for assigned periods of time. Our focus on maintaining productivity through this transition has led to the team culture and relationship dynamics taking a backseat. Isolation has become a recurring theme and we’ve also seen the emergence of other psychological drawbacks from the ways we’ve settled into this remote world, like ‘Zoom fatigue’. Collaboration has become less human and more difficult.

Exploration

To understand what’s exactly lost in our transition from physical to digital collaboration, we explored through desk research and targeted surveys before conducting interviews with people working in remote teams from diverse backgrounds - including designers, founders, marketing specialists, project managers, and engineers. We then got our four key insights: 1. Relationships and trust are more difficult to build in remote teams. 2. Our understanding of personal identity has changed making it harder for teams to understand and leverage each other’s strengths. 3. Communicative conventions are often unclear leading to lost contributions and nuance affecting team alignment. 4. Emotions are more difficult to gauge, harder to relay, and easier to hide, meaning the emotional component of collaborating often gets forgotten. These insights led us to our problem statement - "How might we help remote teams shape and maintain a team culture that leads to high engagement between team members?"

Space

During our ideation process, we came to the realisation that the shared space where teams work together is the centre of their collaborative dynamics. The position of people’s desk and the route of their morning coffee run were once the primary drivers behind the small daily interactions that shape team culture. It was easy to see when a colleague was busy and to get a sense of their moment-to-moment mood. That made it easy to know when to approach someone to ask a question or discuss an obstacle. Video conferencing takes away all that nuance, seating you directly in the meeting room. We started developing the idea of a customisable digital space to revive these lost interactions. We had two core hypotheses: 1. Onboarding teams through a co-creative exercise will help them collaborate better. 2. Giving people a reason to move around a spatial interface will encourage more organic interactions.

Validation
To validate our hypotheses, we created a prototype and tested it with 3 teams of 5. The first part of our prototype was a simple branding exercise aiming to help our teams understand their collective identity and how they could work together. To tackle the second hypothesis, we used a competing customisable spatial interface. We populated the world to present our teams with a collaborative challenge that utilises the space. When people get close to each other, a video call pops up. When they separate, the call disappears, mimicking a real-life encounter. The challenge made them move around the space, which we hypothesised would encourage interactions. Our conclusions were that: - Video calling based on a spatial interface gives team members a higher sense of personal presence and makes them feel more connected to each other than on traditional video conferencing platforms - Movement around the space encourages 1-on-1 and spontaneous conversations
Rebuilding a shared environment
Remoto is a spatial digital workspace for the new age of collaboration, aiming to help teams revive lost interactions to rebuild a healthy team culture. It gives teams the agency to co-create an environment that is fit for purpose. This manifests as a group exercise that focuses on the productivity tools they can integrate with Remoto, as well as common values and other core elements of their team culture. It also brings back a more natural way of communicating based on a spatial interface. By bringing teams into one place through mapping functionality to space paired with spatial video calling, Remoto brings back a more intuitive way of working and talking. Remoto’s ultimate purpose is to dissipate the barriers of physical distance, prevent remote work isolation, and help people collaborate at their best. The end result for teams is re-igniting a collaboration-first environment that fosters engagement and trust.
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