Virtually a Tourist
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Technology has allowed us to fly the world at a moment's notice, putting every corner of the Earth less than a day's travel away. Then, by inventing the Internet and Twitter, it eliminated the need for us to do so altogether. Now we seem to have come full circle with the Remote Control Tourist , a remarkable ad campaign run this fall by Tourism Victoria for the city of Melbourne, Australia.
Guided by user requests over Twitter, and broadcasting their experiences live over the Internet, a group of actors spent five days exploring the city. Users sent instructions to the tourists for what they wanted to see, hear and experience in Melbourne, and the tourists obliged -- an idea originally pioneered by the great minds over at Arrested Development .
If that sounds like an excuse not to visit this sun soaked city on the eastern coast of Oz, The virtual tourist program only whets your appetite for a visit. It's the appetizer, not the main course. Instead of replacing a trip to Melbourne, it showcases a thousand reasons to come yourself, getting people to watch actors visit coffee houses, theaters and local pubs and get struck by a bout of Wanderlust.
I've seen the tourists' trips around Melbourne. It looks great.
The pilot program, which ran for five days in October, worked by strapping four actors with webcams and linking them up to the RCT Twitter and Facebook page. The cameras broadcast their every move around Melbourne, from cycling along the beach to having a cup of coffee, and users worldwide sent in requests for what they wanted to do next. It's a straightforward explanation for what is, in my opinion, an act of technological sorcery: the power to sit in an easy chair and watch a 20-something Australian eat his hamburger live on the other side of the world.
"Some of the weirdest [requests] were food related," said Josh Futcher, one of the virtual tourists. "One that comes to mind was having to order three huge hamburgers and eat them with hot sauce, then having to scull a caramel milkshake."
He described the overall experience as "very much a sensorial thing."
"We could give them the visual," he said, "but they couldn't really touch of smell or taste, so a lot of people wanted those other senses. They wanted to know what it felt like. They wanted to know what it smelled like. So that was a lot of the fun part for us, recreating those five senses for the rest of the world."
The Remote Control Tourist program was designed to bring out Melbourne's hidden gems, the little wonders that get left out of every guidebook but make a city worth living in nonetheless. Clark Edwards and Luke Thompson of Clemenger, BBDO -- the minds behind Remote Control Tourist -- said that they wanted a way to help people find some of the hidden secrets that Melbourne prides itself on as a city.