Amazon Explore offers an interactive live-streaming service where customers can book live, virtual experiences led by local experts all over the world. Olivia Palamountain reports
While live-streaming tech has existed for some time, it’s fair to say we’ve never made best use of it. But after nearly a year of social distancing, Zoom calls and WFH, the world is now used to all things virtual, and Amazon Explore is riding the wave.
An interactive live-streaming service that allows consumers to learn, shop and discover new places from behind a screen in the comfort of their own homes, Amazon Explore’s virtual experiences will be guided by local experts who are trained and supported by Amazon, the company says.
Airbnb was quick to respond to lockdown, with the launch if its Online Experiences platform for live virtual classes back in April, to complement its real-life Experiences platform. The ensuing worldwide travel ban inspired a host of new virtual travel experiences, from weekend surf camps to live-stream tours of Chernobyl. (Find the Globetrender report here.)
Amazon Explore experiences are varied and might be focused on DIY skills, virtual tours, creative arts or boutique shopping. For example, you might like to take the Voodoo and Cemetery tour in New Orleans, head off on a foodie jaunt around Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, take an empanada cooking lesson in Argentina or shop for ceramics in Tokyo. There are currently 86 total experiences available across 16 countries, with the plan to grow the offering in time.
Some experiences include an “experience kit” of curated items, which will be posted to participants in advance of the session.
What tech do you need to take part in an experience? It’s pretty rudimentary: a laptop or desktop computer with charge that will last for the entire session, high-speed internet connection (5 mbps or faster), speakers or headphones, a microphone (the one included on most laptop computers will be fine) and an up-to-date Chrome, Safari, Edge, or Firefox browser.
Since the feed is one-way, Amazon Explorers do not need a camera. Sessions (ranging from 30 to 60 minutes) are one-on-one between the host and the viewer, enabled by one-way video and two-way audio for real-time communication. This is meant to give the viewer more of the feeling of really “being there,” compared with experiences where you more passively watch the video on the screen – think YouTube or GoogleEarth.
Customers will be charged for experiences (plus any purchases made during it) after the session is complete and prices are variable. According to TechCrunch, at launch there was a virtual styling session being offered for just US$10, while a virtual tour of NYC’s Central Park was going for US$150.
Amazon says the hosts set their own prices and hours, without having to abide by any set minimum or maximum price. However, the company declined to detail any revenue-sharing agreements. Experiences can be cancelled up to 24 hours before each session without penalty.
Keen to try one? Unless you live in the US you’ll have to wait a while as the beta mode feature is currently only available on invite-only basis to local users.