Eye to Eye: Exploring the Psychological Impact of Center Cam on Virtual Communication

By Greg Grzesiak Greg Grzesiak has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on April 4, 2024

In an era where digital communication has become as ubiquitous as breathing, the nuances of human interaction have transformed dramatically. The inception of Center Cam, a pioneering technological advancement, aims to redefine the way we connect in the virtual space. This innovative device challenges the conventional webcam design and delves into the psychological intricacies of virtual communication. In this engaging interview, we uncover the psychological theories that inspired Center Cam, its impact on non-verbal communication, and the profound changes it brings to virtual meetings.

Through a series of insightful questions, we explore how Center Cam enhances the sense of social presence, making digital interactions feel more authentic and connected. The interview sheds light on user experiences, revealing how this device alters the dynamics of virtual meetings and fosters a more profound understanding among participants. As we delve into the future of virtual communication and the potential psychological implications, the role of Center Cam in this evolving landscape becomes increasingly apparent.

Join us as we navigate the intersection of technology, psychology, and human connection, unveiling the transformative power of Center Cam in the digital communication arena.

What psychological insights or theories guided the initial concept and design of Center Cam? How did you envision its impact on virtual communication dynamics?

Non-verbal communication, the hesitations, the looks, the sighs, the shrugs, and the information we convey non-verbally make up 50-90% of our communication (depending on the conversation). This is happening in every communication we have, all day, all week, all year. Humans do a lot of instinctual information-gathering that we take for granted. It also is an area that could be more well-researched. The 50/70 rule, where you ‘should’ make eye contact 50% of the time when speaking and 70% when listening. A lot of the information we have about eye contact is a country-science sort of wisdom- because whether we’re conscious scientists or not, we’re making important decisions based on knee-jerk reactions to non-verbals all the time. 

The initial concept of Center Cam began during the pandemic. I was finishing an internship as a therapist working with youth with substance use issues. We switched to remote, and it was SO awkward. That in-person dynamic was lost. I hadn’t gone down the rabbit hole of WHY it was so awkward at that point- I just knew it was. The initial design question was more pragmatic: “What could make this better?” That led to changing the camera angle and then figuring out how to make it customizable to the most amount of screens.

Screen-edge webcams create a conundrum where in order to appear like you’re looking at someone (and engaged, presenting yourself well, thus confident, etc), you have to look away from them and into the screen-edge webcam. We wouldn’t give up 50% of our words in a sentence; why would we want to give up 50% of the meaning/information sharing of our communication? The true measure of communication isn’t what you say; it’s what someone hears; it’s the totality of meaning in what we’re conveying, and we’re leaving a LOT of information out of communication with screen-edge webcams. 

How does improving eye contact with Center Cam affect the sense of social presence in virtual meetings? Does it make the interaction feel more “real”?

People naturally want to look at the screen. That’s where the action is. Put a screen in the hands of a monkey, and this is what you’ll find. The best practice for video conferencing is to have the video input about the level with your eyes. This creates a scaffolding problem for laptops because you have to raise the laptop to the level of your head. It also creates a bird’s eye view problem for those with huge monitors at our workstations because the webcam is way above our heads. Social presence and confidence are created mainly in our minds, based on how we perceive we appear to others. You CAN confidently tell a joke with broccoli in your teeth, but it’s easier if your teeth are clean. The more we can eliminate bad angles from our web conferences, the easier it will be to feel (and be) our confident, natural, awesome selves. The key isn’t just more/better eye contact. Think of the last used-car salesman you interacted with, and you realize that quick eye contact isn’t the only metric to pursue. It’s the overall look and feel you and another Center Cam user have as you interact digitally, the way you would in the same room. Would you stare at 5 inches above someone’s head in real life? Why are we doing that online?

Yes, it does feel more natural. Many of us have trained and practiced using screen-edge webcams optimally by looking at the lens and the screen a minimum amount, which is about the most unnatural way to communicate. I don’t always use Center Cam in all my meetings- when I’m on the go and it’s just my laptop, I sometimes just use the laptop webcam. And it doesn’t matter before you own a Center Cam- but you can feel the difference after using one. 

What feedback have you received from users about how Center Cam has changed their experience of virtual meetings, especially in terms of connection and understanding?

A few days ago, I was catching up with my friend Max, who lives in Germany and helped us launch in Europe. From our WeChat, he said, “Had a funny Center Cam experience. My girlfriend had training on resilience coaching online. The Educator had a decent Webcam because some participants asked why he was so centered. Turns out he is using Center Cam. “An absolutely special webcam specifically for online Education,“ he said. It’s pretty funny to experience this and get a “True“ Feedback.” We get a lot of that sort of story. 

It’s interesting to launch a disruptive product. Our product isn’t just a set-it-and-forget-it type of webcam. There are choices. How far down the screen do you want to go? How do you want to adjust the window during the video conference? In multi-person meetings, eye contact happens by moving the videoconference window, not the camera. We’re creating a new workflow, and some of our negative reviews basically amount to resistance to change. 

How do you see virtual communication’s future evolving, particularly regarding psychological aspects, and what role will Center Cam play?

I’ve met some fascinating people. I met a guy named Steve Mcnelly, who holds patents in holographic technology—think Star Wars holograms. I met the original patent holder for the first middle-screen webcam. We patented the best delivery method to the middle of the screen, but he patented the camera in the middle. I’ve been watching the breakthroughs AI is making in so many fields; it’s silly that most people still accept the awkwardness of a bad angle with screen-edge webcams. 

That said, a lot of digital innovations are actually fragmenting and disconnecting us as humans. The promise of “social” media is at least equally weighted by as many negatives as positives. The average TikTok user spends 97 minutes PER DAY on the app. We are fundamentally herd animals. We want to belong to a group. We want to connect with others. I’m idealistic, but we’re never going back to some whimsical golden age of human connection without the digital space. That place doesn’t exist anymore. Center Cam started because the dynamic was different when I tried remote therapy with some kids I was working with. And then the scope of the problem was startling. If we’re going to be online- why not create a more natural dynamic? Our business is about creating better human connections. I think we live in a fascinating time, with incredible intelligence resources at our disposal- and it’s easy to think bigger when simpler would serve us better. It’s not lost on me that my tiny garage start-up is at the center of this conversation. In some ways, it feels appropriate and undoubtedly ironic.

By Greg Grzesiak Greg Grzesiak has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Greg Grzesiak is an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and Columnist at Grit Daily. As CEO of Grzesiak Growth LLC, Greg dedicates his time to helping CEOs influencers and entrepreneurs make the appearances that will grow their following in their reach globally. Over the years he has built strong partnerships with high profile educators and influencers in Youtube and traditional finance space. Greg is a University of Florida graduate with years of experience in marketing and journalism.

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