What do we do when our traditional social activities stop working? If it's out of the question to go to a busy or crowded place? It's no surprise that 2020 has turned everyone's life upside down, and for many people, this means they are no longer able to get in touch with family and friends up close.
That has left a gap in our social lives, but it is one that technology can really help. Long distance calls may not be a complete substitute for close contact, but they can keep family and friends together in difficult times – and keep you sane. Check out our guide to find innovative ways to practice safe social distancing while staying – well, social.
Use smart displays for innovative communication
Most of today's smart speakers can serve as phones for a quick conversation with a loved one. However, you should consider another option: the more advanced smart display. These displays come with microphones and cameras (including privacy features) that let you instantly start a video chat with people on your contact list with just a quick voice command.
Facebook's latest portal devices are some of the best to enable these conversations. They have a camera specially designed for tracking faces and simple voice calls directly from your Facebook contacts via Facebook or Messenger. With Portal TV, even a small group of friends can watch the same shows together. However, other smart displays like the Echo Show range enable similar video chat functions. This is a great way to feel closer to family members and friends. In addition, the voice assistants typically have a collection of games or stories that can be shared via video chat for even more interaction.
If you don't have a smart display and aren't interested in it, you can still communicate with your friends using video chat apps like Zoom and Skype. These are free and easy to set up.
Take some sensor wristbands with you
Another innovation seen in 2020 is the rise of distance sensors or technologies that check whether people are about a meter apart to prevent germs from spreading too easily. Of course, many of these systems are designed for offices, warehouses, and other businesses that need to scan a wide area and keep the correct distance. However, others are more individual, such as the Italian Labby Light or the Canadian halo bracelet, which hums quietly when the proximity sensors are triggered. Consumer-oriented versions like the Khepra PACT wristband cost around $ 30 and help keep distances at social events, jogging in the park, and so on. This is a great option for those who are particularly vulnerable to viruses.
Check out VR gatherings
Virtual reality enables some social subtleties that mere video chats cannot offer, including a surprising amount of body language by tracking and animating head movements. This technology is still going on, but can offer an impressive amount of social activity from a distance, especially with cheaper VR headsets like the Oculus Quest.
If this suits you and your friends or colleagues well, take a look at VR apps like Spaces and Rumii, which were specially developed for the activation of "social-virtual realities".
Consider senior-focused smart care technology
A concern of many families during social distancing is that they do not want to endanger older relatives through personal visits, but also want to ensure that their relatives are safe and properly looked after. This is an area where smart technologies can be addressed well. We have already mentioned smart speakers and smart displays that can be used for easy communication. Keep in mind, however, that older adults can also benefit from smart plugs that turn devices off when they're on, digital photo frames to store pictures of loved ones (and simple enough to use only with a Wi-Fi network and e- Mail address to use) or smart security to keep track of doors and other access points.
The latest Apple Watch series is also great for seniors, including heart health monitors, fall sensors, emergency numbers, and other health benefits that are perfect for situations where loved ones suddenly need serious help.
Here you will find online training and hobby sessions
Just because you cannot be in the same room with your group does not mean that you can no longer maintain group plans. The internet is filled with social chats and video options for yoga classes, dance classes, cooking instructions, tours of old houses, and many other activities to help you keep up your hobbies or learn new skills. If you're looking for online social activity for your close group of friends, we have a whole guide dedicated to exactly those ideas!
Play team sports safely with new communication technology
Team sports are, to be fair, hard to play online. However, if you're looking for ways to start a season again, or at least let the team get together and play more informally, there's a technology you can use to practice social distancing in these situations too.
Check out solutions like GoRout that help you coordinate games and individual coaching points without having to clump or be near other players. This is a smart option for coaches who want to help their teams enjoy the sport while still practicing distance guidelines. You can use a variety of chat apps to set up your own versions.
Get a community-oriented video game that your friends love to play
Video games are already designed for social interaction while you stay away. So check out the popular options and see if you and your friends would like to delve into something. Sea of Thieves lets you sail in search of prey together and has received some great updates. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a great choice for looser gaming as you build your own island economy and hang out with friends.
Rocket League, Samurai Shodown, Overwatch and of course Fortnite offer all types of gameplay, from very competitive to very chilled, and appeal to a variety of skills. There is really something for everyone. Features like Microsoft Crossplay with Xbox make it easy to play with friends even when you are on a computer and using a console.
Get a friendly text editor app for a health journal
It's common to experience extra stress and loneliness when you don't have the social networks you normally have. One option that is helpful for some people is to start recording feelings more often. This can be a very valuable option even when there is no one around. There are many apps out there that can help with friendly, minimalist designs and helpful features. The first day is a good choice for Apple users, Momento is great for sharing experiences, Diarium takes a more classic approach, and Journey combines journaling with inspiring treats.
Find a great wellness app
Wellness apps can also help you focus on anxiety, solve sleep problems, and generally keep you in a healthy headspace. Speaking of which, one of the best available is called Headspace (and is free for all unemployed). Quiet is another great option, as is the free MyLife app. If you prefer more fitness and nutritional wellbeing, we can help you with that.
Finally, disinfect your devices
One last hint: your devices can help you make contacts while staying disconnected. However, you should always keep them clean. A mobile device can be a dangerous carrier if it remains contaminated. Clean your phone and other devices regularly with disinfectant wipes. Do not (never) use bleach or pure alcohol on one device. If you don't have wipes, you can spray an alcohol-based cleaner on a microfiber cloth.