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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Feb 28, 2013
So I will know where you are minute by minute? I hope you have a good alarm system at home!

[Really? You read the post and concluded that people will send their movie link to burglars? -- Scott]
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 28, 2013
Not crazy about the details, but some variation on this could be useful. I don't know why anyone would want to look at stock photos of the inside of a plane, but other parts might be good. Maybe if the focus was more on you directing and starring in your own little travelogue, rather than on other people stalking you...

I think you could just about manage this now with Street View and some other Google apps.

[It's not intended as something you sit down and watch. Think of it more like flight status.-- Scott]
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 27, 2013
You still want that effortless vacation! If you want an effortless vacation go to some big expensive resort for the entire trip. Or even join a tour group. If you want an adventure it's going to be random and risky - that's what makes it an adventure!

I can see one of those travel blog sites evolving in to this to some degree. By checking in at different locations on their app with a photo or two it automates high production quality content - something closer to a TV travel show.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 27, 2013
If it is possible, I'm sure it will be created. It's not for me though, for I care absolutely nothing about day-to-day details of other people. Not even that of my wife's.

Don't get me wrong, I do care for people. I just don't care for daily non-events. Furthermore, I'd never share such details myself. It's a digital cage.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 27, 2013
Update: I just got a gushing text from the kid about how fantastic Prague is. He took over 500 photos (after barely taking any since leaving the US last month) -and spent 12 hours visiting historic sites in the city, while barely scratching the surface of what the city has to offer.

I think his excitement has a lot to do with the fact that this is entirely his own deal. I think he would be happy to be able to have a movie of his trip that pops up information about the places he visited - for his own use and then to share on his own -when he's ready.

The ownership of the experience (and of the sharing of the experience) really matters here. If I had tried to plot out an itinerary for him, it would have taken a lot of the joy out of the process. If I were following his every move while there - same thing.

I'm thrilled its going so well for him - and especially happy not to have shared all my fears and reservations about the plan. Any technology can be abused. Cell phones are great for controlling spouses and parents, for example. I really would love to see the "movie" - if he had the ability to create one automatically and then chose to share it - but only after the fact.

I certainly wouldn't want any sense of obligation to come out of the experience with a great "movie" for the rest us to detract from the trip.

+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 27, 2013
It's great for cheating married people: you hang around with your lover
and the fake movie keeps the cuckold quiet for you.
Feb 27, 2013
I think it is inevitable that it will exist, for the reason that it is technically possible to do it and for certain situations, too valuable to do without it. However, I think it will quickly go beyond the level that Scott describes.

I grew up in a ghost town, so the notion of having privacy was never real strong with me. When everyone knows everyone, the only true privacy is what you keep in your mind and what you do all by yourself when no one is watching.

I imagine 10 years from now, cameras that warn you if you are drifting out of your lane will become standard equipment on most cars (they could also transmit continuously to record accidents, vandalism, meteors etc. )

I imagine in 2023 most of us will be wearing some form of Google Glasses, so we could provide a real time 2 way audio/video feed as well.

We may choose to sign up for personal surveillance, the audio/video would be securely pushed to the cloud, where a computer program could monitor it for unusual activity and alert who you choose if something unusual happens. Like an "always on" version of Siri 7.0 it would be listening to everything that is going on around you.

With the "Guardian Angel Program" you'd know you are always being watched. I imagine law enforcement will be the first to use it to protect their officers.
Feb 27, 2013
Yeah, we could call it the "Virtual personal family, friends and fiends stalking" app! That sounds just great to me, Mr. Privacy is an outdated notice so get over it Man.
Feb 27, 2013
Seems like a great idea.

-People who are disabled, forced to be in a limited geographic location, or too poor to travel could use it to see the world "live".
-Some virtual tour guide might use it to show you some of the places he'd take you. Others might use it to point out cool places to visit in some location.
-This would be good if you are going to drive into an unfamiliar location or in a confusing area... this sort of thing would let you practice so you aren't always looking at your GPS.
-This also sounds like the basis for a reality TV show, which would make it happen faster than anything else.
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 27, 2013
Yes, this will come and will be mandatory for everyone. It will be accessible by the government plus the US and Chinese governments.

Also when used forprivate purposes the pressure will be there to never switch it off. Spouse "Why did you turn off the app? Are you cheating on me?" Parents "Why did you turn the app off? What were you doing?" All in the name of 'if you have nothing to hide...'
Feb 27, 2013
Cool idea. Most movies have interacting characters, so if this virtual movie of yours were to integrate the parallel movies of traveling companions, passing strangers, loved ones at home or just cameos from Facebook friends, you might be able to construct a story with a plot.

Incentivize participation somehow and you might end up with millions of stories with plots.

Then post-process these stories with an AI engine to weed out the boring 99% and you might have invented a process that could put Dick Wolf out of work. Or at least Larry David.

Feb 27, 2013
Feb 27, 2013
Is this that idea you came up with a few months back when you were looking for someone interested in paying money for only an idea? If not, what's going on with that endeavor anyway?
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 27, 2013
I could think of some value - but not so much to share with others. It's hard to imagine why anyone else would be interested in that level of detail. We took a long road trip years ago that lasted five months. I did not take that many photos. The best recordings come from the journals my kids kept as a school project. It might be nice to have the sort of record you describe for our personal use.

I'm not crazy about the sharing part though. I have a 17-year-old son who, at this moment is traveling with a 16-year-old friend in Prague. He's doing this on his own and very low budget - staying in a university dorm, taking public transit, etc. You'd think this is the ideal application for that type of service - but, trust me, I don't want to know. Well, OK - I do want to know, but I know it's better if I don't know - until he calls me, sends photos, etc.

This is the first time he's really been on his own. He found someone local to help map out a plan. He's carrying a map with addresses written in Czech - so people can just point him to the right train if they don't speak English. Sure lots of things could go wrong - but having his mom hovering over the whole experience and fretting (unavoidable) over every possible misstep would really detract.

Even if I agreed not to insist on using some sort of travel tracking service, I guarantee the 16-year-old's parents would want it - and then I'd fee like a bad parent if I didn't tune in as well.

Sometimes distance is healthy. Parents need to be protected from our own worst impulses.
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 27, 2013
Plenty of opportunities for potential users:

1) Break into your house as they know you are half a world away
2) Spy on a potentially cheating spouse
3) Question why you stayed at this hotel when there is a cheaper one halfway across town
4) Question why did you charge for a taxi when you could have walked there in 20 minutes
5) Bore friends and relatives with stock images of your vacation

Oh yes, that will work.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 27, 2013
Sounds awful. And it couldn't possibly be done well enough to be useful or enjoyable -- stock photos and Street View? Really?
Feb 27, 2013
This could be the next Facebook-like social media sensation. Never underestimate the narcissism of people and what they want to share. Think of a video version of Instagram or a full time YouTube channel. With smart phones and personal video cameras (GoPro and the like) this is the next big thing. Oh, and by the way, big brother may be watching but some want to be watched.
+42 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 27, 2013
Good lord, this sounds like a nightmare.

Who would love this:
o Micromanaging bosses
o Jealous spouses
o Helicopter parents

With plenty of "why did you go private for 17 minutes in Toledo???"

It also would appeal to the insanely narcissistic. It's bad enough to be the person under constant surveillance -- imagine the person who WANTS to be constantly under surveillance! And quizzes you to make sure you were paying attention!

I suppose it might find a use in totalitarian regimes and people on house arrest.
Feb 27, 2013
[Do you think this sort of product is inevitable?]

I dont know about 'inevitable' but I do think you've overlooked one potential use of this app; people can use it as substitutes for vacations they could never find the time/money/health to take on their own. Upgrade this app a bit and it might be awesome for that purpose.

Or not. Im reminded here of a short that appeared in 'Ray Bradbury Theater' where a guy invents a device kind of like this only to have his wife dis it on the grounds that its depressing being shown all these places they'll never go to.

So I think its worth a try but falls short of 'inevitable'.
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