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Orbital: ‘What remote work is supposed to feel like’

(TECH) Oribtal is a new tool that makes Zoom functions seem outdated – all remote teams should take a look.

Woman using orbital remote work tool on computer.

Hopefully we can agree that, as a society, we have gotten pretty much everything we need to get out of video conferencing after the last 18 months. Remote work isn’t going anywhere, though, and employees are desperate for solutions that don’t involve a bunch of pixelated faces staring back at them through cameras.

This is where Orbital, an audio-based conferencing service, comes into play.

Orbital is, at its core, exactly what its description makes it sound like: an audio-only communication tool for remote teams. However, it has a couple of attributes that not only set it apart from other audio-focused conferencing apps, but actively improve upon the audio model.

Firstly, Orbital is “always ready” for employees to join conferences or initiate their own. Rather than having to use a link after setting up a specific room, anyone in a given Orbital space (whimsically dubbed “Galaxies” by the creators) can simply jump in and join an ongoing conversation at any time, 24 hours a day.

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It’s a small but significant convenience feature that makes things like fumbling with Zoom settings and dealing with improperly copied links seem downright silly.

Perhaps more impressive is Orbital’s visual presentation. The majority of audio-based apps eschew fresh or deep interfaces in favor of the simpler UIs associated with such a simple service. That may sound good, but in practice, it leads to less-than-intuitive controls and finicky settings.

Orbital, by contrast, affords each user an avatar and each conversation a circle; dragging one’s avatar into a conversation’s circle allows the user to hear and participate in the conversation, while removing one’s avatar silences the conversation for that user.

The kicker is that multiple circles will be present in any given Orbital workspace, allowing users to jump between calls with a simple click-and-drag motion – and, as mentioned before, these conversations are technically joinable at any time, making Orbital much more convenient than an equivalent breakout room in Google Meet or Zoom.

Folks can also use built-in options such as whiteboards and sticky notes to brainstorm ideas directly in the Orbital space, or they can share screens, documents, and so on, making the interface a true one-in-all experience.

If you’re looking for a fresh, not-gimmicky way to interact with your online teams, Orbital is worth a try – something you can do for 14 days free of charge, according to their site.

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Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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