Suppose you could watch someone else's business trip or vacation on your computer, in real time, in a little window that updates every few seconds. Would you want that product?

Let's say the product is an app that tracks a traveler's smartphone location via GPS and assembles a virtual "movie" of the trip using Google Street View, public websites, the users' own photos, and some generic stock photos. The movie plays on the computer or phone of anyone for whom the traveler grants access.

Who would use such a thing?

Imagine a spouse who is at home while the other is on a business trip. The spouse at home wants to feel connected despite the distance and the time difference. The stay-home spouse opens a window on his workstation and watches the virtual movie of his wife's business trip as it unfolds. But unless the traveler takes personal photos, the movie will be comprised of public images only. There is no effort necessary on the part of the traveler, beyond turning on the app.

Here are some examples of what one might see in this virtual "movie":

1. When the traveler is in a moving vehicle, the movie displays the Google Street View and updates it in real time. The spouse at home has the same perspective as the person in the car across the world. The video is not live, but it would play as if it were. 

2. When the traveling spouse takes a photo, it is automatically uploaded and added to the movie in the appropriate chronological and spatial order. When the movie is replayed later, the user's own photos will be there to augment the Google Street View and stock photos. 

3. When the traveling spouse enters a hotel, the hotel's web page photo gallery pops up in the movie at the same time and goes into slide show mode. The same would happen when the traveler enters any restaurant or other retail store that has a website. I can imagine a soundtrack of background noise that matches each environment. 

4. If the traveling spouse is near a historical site, the relevant Wikipedia page pops up as part of the slide show of clip art for that site. Click on the Wikipedia slide to freeze it and read more. 

5. When the traveling spouse is on a flight, a photo of a plane interior becomes the slide show, interspersed with graphics of the flight's progress across the map. 

To make the app work best, the travelling person should enter his flight and hotel information ahead of time. That way even when the traveler's phone is turned off it still knows you are on a flight and can broadcast stock photos of the airplane cabin during the flight time. If the flight is delayed, the app knows and adjusts accordingly.

I'm not expecting anyone to sit there and watch this trip movie from start to finish. It's just a window on your workstation that reminds you what the other is up to. And people who want to have a detailed record of their vacations might want to keep it permanently and share later with friends.

Now also imagine that people can text each other through the app. This is handy because the person at home can see how busy the traveling person is at any given moment. You might text if you see the person is in a taxi but not if she is on a plane or at a business dinner.

Some potential users for this sort of app might be:
  1. Parents and grandparents who want to track your vacation and feel connected.
  2. Teen goes on a family vacation and wants to stay connected with friends.
  3. Spouse who travels a lot.
These movies of your trips would be stored in the cloud and become the photo album of your trip. You'd need the ability to fast-forward through it and watch slideshows along the way. Perhaps you would navigate to specific clips by viewing a map that shows your travels on any given day. Just click a destination you visited to bring up your photos, stock photos, website photos, and eventually photos taken by others who were at the same location.

As the traveler, you'd want the ability to turn off the app for some privacy if needed. And you'd want to be able to edit your movie before anyone sees it, assuming you didn't broadcast it live. Remember that this movie never shows your face (unless you take a picture of yourself), just a representation of your point of view at the same time you are experiencing it.

I can also imagine the app taking a text file of your credit card statement that you download from your bank, and using that information to create an expense record for the trip. Each charge would associate with a location.

Eventually I could imagine people posting their vacations online after they are done with them, so others can plan similar vacations, right down to the budget needed and perhaps an overall Yelp score of the entire experience.

Do you think this sort of product is inevitable?

Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  -24
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Mar 7, 2013
"[Really? You read the post and concluded that people will send their movie link to burglars? -- Scott]
[Do you have a big problem with your best friends robbing your house when you leave? According to you, Facebook will be a huge flop for the same reason. -- Scott]"

You said nowhere the "sharing" is to be voluntary.
If you know an address, you can know who lives there, you can find their phone numbers, etc. etc.

An organised gang can easily set up a watch on an area using this latest public surveillance idea, and find out who's going on vacation where. It indeed already happens using Facebook and Twitter, this would make it even more responsive.
And no, I've no problems with people tracking me on Facebook to know when I'm not home as I don't have a Facebook account (or Twitter, Hyves, Google , or any of the other social whoring services where kids who can't comprehend that they're not massively attractive and interesting voluntarily place all their life data in minute detail for the world to see, trying to rival the paparazzi reports about their idols.

Also, the moment this becomes possible you can be guaranteed that governments the world over will start demanding it be installed and running 24/7 on every phone registered on a network homed in their countries, impossible to turn off, sending everything anyone with a mobile phone does to central control "just in case" "for the children".
Mar 1, 2013
I don't think this application would achieve the intended purpose. It sounds like what you are aiming for is a way to feel connected to a person you know that is traveling. Connection. There is a big difference to how the connection *feels* to me if I know the other person is *intentionally* updating me versus having some program do it automatically. It's the same reason why a blog with comments feels alive to me (people are intending to connect) versus what most corporate websites feel like to me, for example.
Mar 1, 2013
Of course it's inevitable, but might happen first where there's a money making angle, such as watching a celebrity's life through their eyes (Google glass), seeing what they see, how people see them, how they are treated, etc. Imagine teen girls with bad taste and disposable money who would love to watch !$%*!$ Bieber's life, or buying access to Tiger's view of a golf game?
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 1, 2013
What a nightmare.

Somebody you know is on holiday pretty much all the time. Imagine being forced to watch all those incoming holidays (because if you don't, it's because you don't love them...)

And it won't just be holidays, it'll be every mundane thing they do.

There *might* be a market for old people to interfere with and comment on the lives of all their descendents. They've got plenty of free time for this. OTOH who wants granny constantly looking over their shoulder?
Mar 1, 2013
[Really? You read the post and concluded that people will send their movie link to burglars? -- Scott]

Call me jaded Scott, but having had a home invasion (burglary) last year I've unfortunately started thinking in those terms. Having conversations with a few police officers & doing some research (after the fact) I have learned a few things. Simple things like my kids posting a picture while they're in Disney or an email about me being out of the office (with a bit to much information) being forwarded to the wrong person can make one vulnerable. Remember stealing is a career to some, and they will use any and all means to advance their career. Sorry to be a little negative on a post that you see as positive.
Feb 28, 2013
Since Scott has some libertarian tendencies, here is some recent food for thought on the subject: http://reason.com/archives/2012/12/17/your-cellphone-is-spying-on-you
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 28, 2013
You know who will really embrace this? Schools, churches and youth organizations that travel with kids/teens.

I'm not crazy about the idea of tracking my own kid's first independent travel experience - because of the control/ownership issues involved.

However, if he were traveling with a team, school group, etc. it would be a totally different story. Those are very controlled trips anyway - and family members would love to be able to track where the group is and what they are doing. (STILL waiting in line at the Smithsonian???)

I help take a group of teens to the state capitol every year. We pretty much hang out at the same places - but I would be great to be able to automatically generate a movie for parents that gives a bit of history about the places we visit, etc. I try to create a slide show every year for various purposes -including recruiting and fundraising - so something like this would be a great head start. Fully editable is key. I'd want to be able to insert my own photos/video and other info into the storyline.
Feb 28, 2013
This reminds me of a recent post over at Penny Arcade which expounded on the social media aspects built in to the upcoming Playstation 4.

Tycho, the author, expressed a total lack of desire for such features, but he grasps that young people are into this stuff and he is just old. Reading about Scott's idea today I had the same feeling. I know that I have zero interest in being on either end of this sort of thing, but today's young people would go bonkers for it.

I'm only 34, but in internet technology terms I'm a wrinkled old man sitting on his porch yelling at kids to stay off my lawn.
Feb 28, 2013
It seems that a common thread or theme is that technology is supposed to and eventually, inevitably will take us to the point where we only float through life in a chain of experiences. I'm all for technology, I've been in the IT field for almost twenty years. But, technology should be a tool we use to be efficient and do a better job. Admittedly it is a tricky and ephemeral line between appropriate tech use and over reliance. Question: how many use spell check to catch an oversight or learn from misspellings as opposed to those who don't care to develop their brains and just rely on the computer? How many use search engines to find information and educate/learn vs. just relying on the ability to search and don't attempt to learn or 'own' the knowledge?
I don't want to be in a version of the matrix where I just lay in a stasis while life is just fed to my brain.
Feb 28, 2013
forget stock photos and old streetview images, in 5 years people will be getting their google glasses for free if they allow this kind of app to run real time with a few relevant ads popping up occasionally. i think it sounds good in a very limited context, and awful in most others, but i'm going thumbs up on this because i do think its inevitable. It appeals to both marketing and voyeurism, and those two things combined tend to be a powerful force. My Facebook account tells me that if there is a way for some people to profit while other people inexplicably publicly humiliate themselves, it will be so.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 28, 2013
Scott, there are several potential problems for abuse as I previously posted. True that the technology exists already. There's already a company that offer to listen in on your phone via an app and then call the police with your grid coordinates should they hear something suspicious.

However, several major problems exist. As several folks pointed out, no software or app is safe. Someone somewhere will figure out a way to break into the app. Your analogy with FB is not accurate. I do not post my location on FB nor do most intelligent adults. I do post my vacation pictures but only after I have returned and I edit out which photos or info I choose to share. The ability to edit or select the timing of the information to share will be important.

As you may be able to tell, people are reluctant to provide too much info in an unfiltered manner. FB's attraction for me is to find folks I have lost touch with over the years and wish to reconnect with on a slightly more impersonal level because the ones that are really important to me I've stayed in touch with. Those arms-length friends FB are the ones I would not want to share detailed personal information with. Twitter provides real-time updates but again, it's a message and timing of your choosing and you have full editorial control.

I think this app will only make people feel paranoid that someone is looking over their shoulder at all times.
Feb 28, 2013

-22 is downvoted to oblivion?

You can have nothing to hide and still be ticked at having a paranoid spouse looking over your shoulder you know. Not to mention the possibility that it wont help; that shell still be convinced you're up to something.

And for similar reasons Im sure your kids dont like the idea.
Feb 28, 2013
Wow, down-voted to oblivion. I would like the app for my kids (age 11, 12, with iphones). I think it gets stickier, the older people get, though. Since I have nothing to hide and my wife is paranoid, I think it would be a good app for me. I can't imagine too many people would want it, though.
Feb 28, 2013
[Really? You read the post and concluded that people will send their movie link to burglars? -- Scott]

I didnt but now that chubbymike mentions it the possibility that criminals will hack into this app and use it for burglary or worse has to be considered.
Feb 28, 2013
Over protective moms will happily provide the start up money.
Feb 28, 2013
Over protective moms will happily provide the start up money.
Feb 28, 2013
Over protective moms will happily provide the start up money.
Feb 28, 2013
Over protective moms will happily provide the start up money.
Feb 28, 2013
Over protective moms will happily provide the start up money.
Feb 28, 2013
I'm sure the world's criminal element will love it to know people are on their way to the airport.
And the world's governments, to know at all times where everyone is and what they're doing.
And lawyers, looking for excuses to extort people.

[Do you have a big problem with your best friends robbing your house when you leave? According to you, Facebook will be a huge flop for the same reason. -- Scott]
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