Before we begin, let’s all spare a thought for the new-to-filter-tech boss that got stuck looking like a potato the entire way through a Microsoft Teams call with her colleagues. Thanks mostly to Snapchat, putting filters on our faces before we call, send messages or post online has become totally de rigueur, whether to hide tired eyes behind a face-tuned, wide eyed Manga filter, or to provide the viewer a few laughs by appearing as a puppy, bunny, pumpkin or, now, pickle.
But filters are just one of the many great ways you can get more out of your video call and conferencing apps, so we’ve put together some tips and tricks for making the best of screen time with your pals. A word to the wise though, maybe save the games and filters for friends and family, rather than colleagues.
How To Get The Potato Filter (Snap Camera)
For those desperate to follow in @PettyClegg’s boss’ footsteps, the potato filter is available to everyone.
my boss turned herself into a potato on our Microsoft teams meeting and can’t figure out how to turn the setting off, so she was just stuck like this the entire meeting pic.twitter.com/uHLgJUOsXk— Rachele with an e but pronounced Rachel (@PettyClegg) March 30, 2020
It isn’t actually unique to Microsoft Teams, but rather a separate application called Snap Camera, that you can download to your computer and that’s compatible with all your favourite video calling apps. So you can use it with Teams, Zoom, Twitch livestreams and more.
For safety though, if you need to turn the filter back off, just click the yellow circle button on the top of your screen. Snap camera will open up and you can turn it off before your next important video meeting.
Zoom Virtual Backgrounds
Not quite as hilarious as turning up to the party as a potato or a pickle, but also fun because you can customise them yourself really easily, are Zoom‘s virtual backgrounds.
When using the Zoom app to make a group call on your phone, select the three little dots on the bottom right hand side of the screen and then click ‘Virtual Backgrounds’ (you can also select this in ‘settings’ if you’re using Zoom on desktop). The app will let you choose from a couple of stock images or, by clicking the + button, you can select an image from your own camera roll to use as a backdrop.
I was today years old when I learned you can upload your own virtual background in Zoom meetings pic.twitter.com/IBMUnp4DW7— Nick Eagland (@nickeagland) March 31, 2020
Be careful not to accidentally select an image from your ‘hidden’ iPhone album though, if you don’t want to be left red faced in front of your friends.
The Houseparty app has experienced a roaring surge in sign-ups since coronavirus lockdown was announced. And for good reason – the app allows not just multi-way video conferencing with friends, as many of the other apps do, but also a wide range of further benefits.
Firstly, you can invite as many people as you like to your party, without a password and they can also leave and come back again. But also, your friends can yank their friends into the party too.
More than that though, you can see who else among your contacts is online and hop into their nightly soirées too.
And if the conversation dries up, don’t worry, because Houseparty offers a number of games that all your party guests can participate in.
Do yourself a favor and download the Houseparty app. You can play games on video with your friends and it works on Androids too ???? pic.twitter.com/3TruAC5slS— Dezeray (@DezerayCherel) March 27, 2020
There is a + icon in the top right corner of the screen, which allows you to peruse your contacts and group them together for calls and below the +, you will also find a dice icon, which is where you can swiftly discover a bunch of fun games to play, such as pictionary, Sound It Out, Karaoke and Heads Up.
Here’s a little video on how to use all the features on Houseparty:
For those worried about recent reports of data leakage when using the Houseparty app, Forbes spoke to a cybersecurity expert – Lukas Stefanko a privacy researcher for ESET – who said there weren’t any clear issues with the Android app. Stefanko told Forbes, ‘I analyzed the app’s permissions usage and since the app provides video chats with your friends it is logical that requested permissions are necessary. I haven’t found any shady misusing of them by the app.’
Netflix Party For Shared Streaming
Missing out on movie night with your girl mates because you can’t go round to each others’ houses anymore? Don’t worry. The great gang over at Netflix has got you covered, with a new Google Chrome extension called Netflix Party.
The extension allows people to stream content on Netflix at exactly the same time, with a sidebar chat room that allows you to discuss the plot of the movie or the TV show as you’re watching it. But of course, you could use this extension on your laptop, while also video calling your movie-watchers on Zoom, for the ultimate (isolation-times) shared viewing experience.
Steam’s Tabletop Simulator For Board Games
Steam is basically a social network, for the purpose of playing, discussing and creating games together. You can meet new people and join groups, or just stick to your own friend network of Steam users.
The tabletop simulator allows you to play virtual board games together, plus the software supports video calls too.
This article originally appeared on ELLE UK.