Stefan Marti, April 13th 2000, v3.0: new incl. Powerpoint presentation.
This is my entry for the British Airways MIT Media Lab Concorde competition (local copy).

Live Impressions From Flight BA2172

Wouldn't it be nice if you could send a postcard to your friends from the cities you are just flying over with your jet plane?

Wouldn't it be nice if your family could see where you are, and listen to a video clip of your impressions of the flight?

Wouldn't it be nice if you could have a personal photograph album of where you have flown, along with captain's note and your personal note?

Wouldn't it be cool if you could show your friends how the control tower saw your plane approaching on the radar screen, and an actual video clip of your landing?

Wouldn't it be cool if your friends would ask you "So, what airplane will you fly?" and you just give them the URL of a web page that contains all technical and personal data of your flight, updated live from the airplane?

Traveling with an airplane can be a rather monotonous experience—hours of trying to sleep, watching movies, listening to music, and hours of trying not to think about "We are stuck on the airplane for another five hours!" One of the reasons is that even though they are flying over quite unique places around the world, and even though we are physically traveling such distances, the airplane does not let them feel such activity. The passengers sometimes feel like canned inside the airplane and isolated from the world outside. Wouldn't it be nice if travelers could make more personal connections to the miles they fly?

Every flight is unique to the guests, is associated with experiences and memories, and therefore is worth to get documented extensively. Since the Internet is getting more and more the medium where people represent themselves and their experiences, dreams, and hopes, it makes sense to give an important event like a jet flight its own representation in cyberspace. In other words: the flight, this happening, this event, should get expressed on the Web—immediately and live!

So why don't we build a unique Web page for each flight, updated live from the airplane with video and audio impressions of the guests and live flight data!

One part of this event called flight is related to the airplane as a whole: where is it currently, at which altitude, flying over which city, how is the view through a passenger window, how does the world underneath look like, what does the pilot see, what does that radar picture of flight control show, etc.

The other part is what do the guests feel, what do they think. Each flight is personalized with the creative input of the guests. For this purpose, there are several small video and photo booths on the jet, where the travelers can record their impressions, thoughts, and worries. These pictures, sound files, and video snippets are sent immediately to a Web page that contains all possible information of this specific flight. It is like the travelers can send multi media letters to the flight's guest book. The guests can also choose to send their video or photo impressions directly to a specific person, like their family, over the Internet.

The web page has the following two functions:

  • Before and during the flight, it shows the status of the flight, what is going on right now on the plane. This is mainly for your family and friends, so that they can participate in your experience.
  • After the flight, the page serves as a travel log, showing the route of the journey, all images and videos that the passengers have recorded during the flight, as well as the videos of starting and landing, from many different perspectives. This could become an important photo and video album of their experience, and it can be shared with their personal web page visitors.

Technically, the following elements are necessary:

  • Several micro video cameras mounted outside the airplane, on the wings, on the stabilizers, on the landing gear, as well as in the cockpit. (I suggest wireless CMOS based chip cameras.)
  • Several video booths in the passenger cabin: that's where the guests can take pictures, or record short snippets of video. Handheld video and photo cameras are also possible (privacy issues have to be considered); the recordings of these stable solid state devices (means, they contain NO tapes or photo films, just chips) are downloaded wirelessly. In first class, each seat should have a build in camera, very much like a web cam.
  • All data—pictures, compressed videos, the wealth of flight data, etc.—is transferred down to earth during the flight with a digital downlink to terrestrial receivers or satellites.
  • A web server and scripts automatically process the incoming data and publish it on a Web page that is specific for each single flight. This publication process can be made almost completely automatic.
  • External data feeds from weather radar pictures, video pictures from the flight tower, as well as data from Mapquest that show the current position of the plane in virtually any possible resolution: its location on the globe, or zoomed in on a several miles wide map.
  • Web scripts that forward the guest's virtual postcards and videomails to the Internet.
  • And eventually, each ticket issued will carry the unique WWW address where all friends and families can check the status of the flight and its guests. After the flight, the travelers themselves can look it up and will remember a great experience!

Here are two mockup pages
And here is my presentation at the Media Lab on April 12th 2000

portal page.

video messages.

Powerpoint presentation.