Dear DTM Community Members,
Immediately prior to the DTM Technical Committee Meeting this year, we will
be hosting a "DTM Happy Hour" to try to replicate some of the social
aspects of the IDETC conference that many of us miss. For this, we will be
using an experimental video platform called Gather <http://gather.town>.
For those of you who would like to catch up with colleagues or make new
friends in the DTM Community,* just go to the following link at 5 pm EDT
(UTC−04:00) on August 18th*:
This runs directly in the browser and you don't need to sign up or register
for anything to use it. Our testers found the interface intuitive but I
will nevertheless provide detailed instructions below.
I will also be in that room early from *4:30-5pm EDT* for those who wish to
perform any Technology or AV Checks with my help or just want more time to
meet with people. Likewise, if you are new(er) to DTM and don't know many
people: feel free to join early and I or other TC members will be happy to
chat with you about DTM and how to become more involved or just introduce
you to people. The above link will also work anytime before, during, and
after the TC meeting, for those who wish to continue socializing on this
platform outside of the official TC meeting time.
We have prototyped and tested various iterations of this several times over
the past month with various people. So far all feedback has been positive,
so we have decided to give this little experiment a go this year. Those who
attended our prototype tests said it was a fun experience and the closest
thing to the "typical" conference socializing that they had experienced
thus far among other alternative options for virtual conferences we
considered. The platform is not without some hiccups so do bear with us
since this is an experiment. However, for those with an open mind that are
up for a novel experience, I think this can provide some fun and reconnect
you with colleagues. Speaking from just my personal experience, I certainly
enjoyed "bumping into" unexpected colleagues and friends of mine during the
earlier tests we conducted. I hope you will too!
Those who are interested in reconnecting with their colleagues or meeting
new friends, do join us for this experiment. For those who would rather
just solely attend the TC meeting and skip the Happy Hour, you can use the
Zoom Registration link I sent several weeks ago
to go directly to the TC meeting at 6 pm EDT.
In the spirit of inclusiveness and community growth, feel free to
invite/forward to colleagues or staff/students who wish to learn more about
DTM or would enjoy connecting with folks in our community, even if
(especially if) they are newcomers.
All the best,
The DTM Technical Committee
Mark Fuge, Chair
Christine Toh, Vice Chair
Jessica Menold, Secretary
----------- Detailed Gather Instructions Below ----------------------
*What is Gather?*
Gather <http://gather.town/> is a new experimental platform used to connect
Audio and Video channels of participants (kind of like breakout rooms in
Zoom), but where participants can move about and choose who to connect
with, leave conversations, join others, sit at private tables etc. using a
Spatial movement metaphor. You can see a short animation of the interaction
on their website. It was recently used at the International Conference on
Learning Representations (ICLR), which is one of the larger Machine
Learning conferences, with over 5000 attendees. JuliaCon also used it for
their own social gathering aspects, outside of the official conference
This runs in a browser so you don't need to install anything. The browser
will request access to your video and audio, much like Zoom, Webex,
Hangouts, and the like do as well. They say they only support Chrome and
Firefox, which so far has been true in our tests (we also tried Safari and
MS Edge, neither of which worked). You can take a look at their website for
further technical specifications.
*I went to the link, but I don't see how to actually enter the room. What
should I do?*
You need to click "Yes" under "Do you still want to enter this space?"
after their privacy page. You may have to scroll down to see this,
depending on your window magnification.
*How do I use it?*
You use your arrow keys to move around a 2D map (e.g., the image below). If
you get close by to a person (like at a conference) your video and audio
feeds will automatically connect, like you are in your own little Zoom
breakout room. You will connect with anyone within a certain radius of you,
allowing you to have group conversations if you choose. If you decide you
are done with the conversation or just wish to talk to someone else, you
can move away using the arrow keys and your video/audio feeds will
automatically disconnect (like you are leaving the breakout room). I have
held conversations with up to 6 people nearby with no issue and
moved between multiple groups of people, just like at a conference. There
is a small delay when first connecting to a new person or group (few
seconds), so this requires some patience when first getting used to it, but
then works great.
I have some further instructions below, but I found the interface intuitive
to learn without much direction.
*What if I don't know anyone in the room when I join? I feel weird just
walking up to people.*
This describes how I feel at regular conferences too! Unlike at a regular
conference though, anyone in this room is likely only here because they
want to talk to people. So, in that sense, it is actually more amenable to
meeting people than a standard conference. But, if you are new, shy, or
really don't know anyone, just find me or one of the other current TC
members (Christine Toh, Jessica Menold). I'd love to talk to you! If you
can't find me, I'll try to be behind the bar, so come say hi. (Where is the
bar? See image.)
*What if I already know many people, but really I only want to talk to a
few people/friends and not others?*
You have three options.
*First*, you can just move to a quiet/unoccupied space in the room, and
then only the folks you want to talk to nearby will be connected to you.
This is the easiest. Anyone can walk over to you and say hi if they really
want to, though there is space to spread out if you need to.
*Second*, is there are a variety of "Private tables" that have a limited
number of "seats" on them. You, and whoever you want to talk with
privately, can just walk away from others to one of these tables, much like
at a conference. Once you occupy those "seats" no one else can join your
conversation, no matter how close they get. (The video is even sent
peer-to-peer bypassing any servers, so it is even more secure in that sense
than a conference.) This is good if you meet someone in a group but then
want to have a more private sidebar conversation with them afterward. We
have constructed tables of varying sizes from two-tops up to 10 people. You
can tell which spaces are private because they have a colored circle. Below
are examples of me at a two-person private space and a six-person table,
respectively. You certainly don't need such tables to chat with people, but
they are an option for those who want privacy.
*Third*, you can control your "Interaction distance" via a small control on
the left-hand side. By default, this is the largest setting, meaning you
can connect to folks in around a 3-4 space radius. In the smallest setting,
no one can connect with you (unless you are at a private table). You can
adjust this depending on your distance preference, though we designed the
space such that the default should provide a nice experience so you should
not need to touch this.
*Person X and I wanted to meet up/I want to tell Person X specifically to
meet me someplace. What do I do?*
In general, the space isn't so large that you will ever get lost, but, if
you do, you have two options:
First, you can send them a chat message directly via the right-hand side
and clicking on their name:
"Chat" will allow you to send them (and just them) a message like "Hey
Mark, would love to catch up. Meet me by the bar?"
Second, "Locate" will point you in their direction, though you will still
need to walk over to that person to communicate.
*How do I mute my audio/stop my video/change the look of my character, etc?*
Check out the little settings bar on the left. It has all those things and
*My Video/Audio isn't working the way I expect/is using the wrong camera.
What should I do?*
See their FAQ on this: https://gather.town/video-issues
One of our prototype testers with a more complex AV setup (e.g., multiple
microphones and cameras) said they needed ~10 minutes to debug their
Video/Audio connection. For most, it worked right away (e.g., if you have
just one mic/camera). If you have a complex AV setup, then I encourage you
to take advantage of the tech check from 4:30-5:00 and I can help where I
*I just found out during the happy hour that my colleague or friend got
some cool awards/had a kid/I'm just super excited to see them. I want
everyone to know how awesome they are by doing a little happy dance for
them. How can I do this?*
Hold the 'z' key:
*There are some people in my way and I can't pass by them to see my friend
on the other side of the room. What should I do?*
Hold 'g' and you will be able to pass through other people. This will
disconnect your video/audio from others, but you will reconnect to those
around you once you let go of 'g'. Kind of wish I had this for the regular
*Ah, it's 6 pm already and time for the TC Meeting; time moves so quickly.
What is the link again?*
First, you can just go through the door marked "To TC Meeting Zoom" and hit
'x' once inside as per the directions that will pop up. This will
temporarily shut gather and provide the Zoom link for you to click on.
Second, you can just close the gather browser tab and then go to the TC
Zoom link I sent earlier.
Ifyou do this second option it is important to make sure you close the Gather