Over a million and a half Americans rise into the stratosphere each day. Nowhere else in our lives are ordinary humans afforded this perspective on our planet. But nine times out of ten, what’s the big takeaway? That Sandra Bullock movie blew, and there weren’t enough pecans in our nut mix. Mercifully, technology has caught up with our lameness.
Behold MondoWindow, an interactive map that provides fliers with real-time information on all those mysterious middle-of-the-country towns and crop circles below. Calling itself “the first product for the WiFi-connected airline passenger,” the site serves up a wealth of geo-tagged information on – and a zoomable image of – all that’s passing beneath you. That mysterious crop circle is no longer mysterious.
MondoWindow isn’t alone in bringing “geotainment” to the burgeoning in-flight entertainment (IFE) industry. Georadio gives us geo-triggered storytelling, and Hidden Journeys, from the Royal Geographical Society, offers an interactive flight path guide for certain aerial routes. Meanwhile the Rocks from Above blog delivers a “geologic field guide at 35,000 feet,” and Jetway Geographer sells printed route-specific guidebooks.
Once upon a time, before we just mindlessly epoxied ourselves to the nearest electronic device, we pressed our noses to the airplane window and wondered about all that was passing below. If they’re going to do away with our last sliver of Internet-free quietude – and they are – maybe this is a way to reconnect with those old curiosities. (And, hey, business travel perk: have some interesting stuff to tell colleagues on the way to the conference.) We can still watch the Sandra Bullock movie, too. She’s sort of lovable, right?
Chris Colin is the award-winning author of “Blindsight,” published by the Atavist and named one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2011. See his work at www.chriscolin.com.