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K-12 Technology

Sep 01, 2020 2020-09-01

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Experimental Software System Supporting Ad Hoc, Private Videoconferences

Countless educational conferences have had to go virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic, but one of the biggest benefits of real-world conferences has been lost: the casual meetings with other educators that often produce new ideas and opportunities. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and Northeastern University are testing a new video chat service called Minglr that lets online conference-goers bump into each other virtually. Users simply sign up at the Minglr website, list their interests, and declare their willingness to chat with all comers. Visitors to the site see the icons and names of other users, along with a few words describing their primary interests. If a Minglr user sees someone online who seems interesting, he or she clicks or taps the icon. If the other party is interested, the two enter a one-on-one video meeting room run by Jitsi, a free open-source conferencing service. Presently Minglr supports only one-on-one meetings; an upcoming upgrade will allow for larger get-togethers. Also in the works is a feature to let users home in on strangers who are interested in talking about specific topics. Also planned is a random-matching feature that would connect likeminded people by sheer chance.

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