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Introducing Minglr: New Open Source Software Developed at MIT Sloan Helps Overcome the Limitations of Videoconferences by Supporting Impromptu Conversations

'Those ad-hoc interactions are what people miss in today's work-from-home environment'

During the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom, Skype, and other video conferencing systems have become our lifelines for workplace communication. But while those platforms work well for many kinds of virtual meetings and conferences, their capacity to replicate the kinds of spontaneous, informal interactions that take place when people are together in person is limited.

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Enter Minglr, a new software platform developed by researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Minglr is designed to support the kinds of impromptu, private conversations that individuals have before and after meetings, in the lobby during breaks of conferences, and around the office coffee machine. By making these interactions possible online, systems like Minglr can further boost the desirability and feasibility of remote work, learning, and professional networking.

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“I think ad-hoc interactions—those ‘hallway conversations’—are among the most important things that people miss in today’s work-from-home environment,” says Thomas W. Malone, the Patrick J. McGovern (1959) Professor of Management at MIT Sloan and the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, who led the Minglr research team. “From a collective intelligence standpoint, lots of research suggests that those random encounters are key to creative innovations in cities, research labs, companies, and elsewhere. And we know from our own personal experiences that they are also critical to making new professional connections, forming social bonds, and building camaraderie in a group. But most people don’t realize how straightforward it is to create videoconferencing software that supports these ad-hoc interactions.”

“We want to demonstrate what is possible, and we hope that all major videoconferencing systems will implement functionality like that in Minglr.”

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