We believe that City Window is a great example of an interaction design project in the Connecting space, because it leverages technology in a novel way to create meaningful cultural encounters between people.
Our research and prototyping affirmed that there is an opportunity to connect so-called cultural tourists with locals who are eager to share their love of a place with others.
Services such as Couchsurfing.com have long demonstrated this. We believe that the prevalence of broadband connections and camera phones has opened the door for a service like City Window to facilitate more spontaneous, just-in-time experiences, with a much smaller transactional cost.
City Window is a live-streaming service that allows tourists to experience a short "micro tour", guided remotely by a local from the place they are visiting. Conceived as a free service, with a "karma economy" model similar to Couchsurfing, City Window offers both tourists and guides anexperience ofmeeting new people from other countries. Guides are able to personally share something they love about their city, and tourists are able to get off the well-trodden path of mass-market group tours.
Tourists can browse available guides by location of tour and particular topics of interest, such as culture, food and drink, or history. The selected guide is notified of an incoming request and given the opportunity to accept or decline. City Window tours are topical but informal, and are time limited, which helps to create a comfortable, casual mood for the participants by keeping the commitment and expectations reasonable.
Visitors share their exact locations on a shared map and, through the camera of their phones, live video of exactly what they are seeing in front of them. Both parties can interact with the map and camera feed — to provide directions on the map, or to call attention to something visible in the live view, for example. Visual feedback is overlaid on both screens.
At the end of the tour, a tourist can thank a guide for the service provided with a voucher for drinks or food through local business partners. City Window could retain a small percentage of such transactions to sustain its operational costs.
We thought it was amazing how they expressed the possibility of Internet world as an "easy to understand" service and has the power to bring new experiences when you travel.