Mmhmm Wants to Make Zoom Chats Fun Again

Make video calls feel like a segment on John Oliver’s show. Talent not included.

Key Takeaways

  • The Mmhmm app lets you add videos and slide decks to Zoom calls and YouTube videos.
  • Two presenters can work together in a virtual room.
  • Mmhmm could be the future of online teaching and classes.
Mmhmm app as it appears on a Mac desktop
Mmhmm 

Much like how Zoom defined our work during the early pandemic, Mmhmm aims to become the future of video calling. It makes bland, old-fashioned video chat an interactive, dare we say “fun,” experience.

Instead of a bunch of heads yapping in front of last night’s dirty dishes and struggling to find their meeting notes, Mmhmm can turn video calls into actual presentations, like the ones you see on John Oliver or the evening news. Imagine your kids’ remote school with Mmhmm, and you start to see the potential.

 “The idea is to kill PowerPoint,” Mmhmm founder Phil Libin told Lifewire via—what else?—Zoom chat. “Nobody needs to stream PowerPoint slides ever again. It’s a hybrid between a movie and a slide deck.”

Zoom Boom

When the worldwide COVID-19 lockdown hit, video calls took off. Families stayed in contact via Skype and FaceTime, and businesses flocked to Zoom. Now Zoom is making a play for the home, with its newly-announced integration on home smart displays. “You’ll soon be able to use Zoom at home on your smart display as part of our Zoom for Home program,” Zoom’s Jeff Smith wrote in a blog post. Professional video chat, then, is here to stay.

Zoom itself has some serious privacy and security issues, but the service itself is dead easy to use. Just click a link to a chat, and you’re in. That ease of use has been the fuel in Zoom’s explosive growth.

Mmhmm was conceived in response to this video-calling boom. “This is all super new,” says Libin. “We started a couple of months ago. It’s our first COVID-native project.”

Basic video chats are fine for friends and family, but for anything else, they’re limiting. The most basic task for a work meeting is sharing materials, and doing that in Zoom or Skype involves juggling cameras, or trying to activate screen sharing. Today’s video-conferencing tools are fundamentally unchanged since the beginning of Skype. You can see people and talk to them, but that’s it. 

Interactive, Flexible, Non-Boring

Mmhmm is designed to fix conferencing tools. It’s a Mac app (soon coming to iOS and Windows) that lets you easily combine videos and documents on the fly. You can put a slide deck in an on-screen window, the same way a weather forecaster adds a map on TV. But that’s just the beginning. You can drop pretty much anything into that floating window, including a live view of your iPhone’s screen, sent wirelessly using AirPlay (or via USB).

Libin gave the example of a financial adviser talking to a client, where the adviser could answer a question with a pre-made video or slide, but also be present to answer questions. “Basically, any teaching situation,” he said. 

Online music lessons would be another fantastic use-case, with the teacher able to share the screen with something as simple as a music score, or a video of the song they’re teaching.

“I think the world is moving to everything being a hybrid experience. Previously, meetings were all live, or all recorded. The mixture makes it much more powerful,” Libin said. 

Recording

Recording is the other important part of Mmhmm. These recordings can combine a background, a live human, and various slide-deck or picture-in-picture (PiP) inserts. Viewers can skip to anywhere in the timeline to choose which parts they want to see.

You can even cut out the human presenter entirely, which may be good in educational videos. The first time you could watch the entire presentation, then on subsequent viewings you could focus on just the teaching materials. There’s a demo of this feature on the Mmhmm site.

Mmhmm fullscreen window
 Mmhmm

Once you’ve seen Mmhmm in action, two people working on a presentation together seems like an obvious addition. Enter Copilot. If one is working on a slide, then the other person can see the live edits. Both presenters can also show up together in the same virtual room. It’s like Google Slides on steroids.

Mmhmm works as a standalone application, which then ties into the video and audio inputs and outputs of apps like Zoom, Google Meet, and YouTube. The app is still in beta, and is adding new features as it goes. By the time Mmhmm launches in late fall, there should be a Windows version, too.

Mmhmm really does look like a powerful way to put together instructional videos, something more of us are involved in as the pandemic wears on. More importantly, it’s easy to use, meaning people like your guitar teacher can build amazing lessons that may even be as good as the in-person sessions you can no longer do. 

Good luck killing off PowerPoint, though. In the event of a nuclear war, the only things that survive will be cockroaches, Mad Max-style tribal groups, and PowerPoint.