Escape to Streetlevel


Next up: cities you can drive through, and not from above, or fake worlds where everyone has big chests. Real cities, from all angles. It’s called EveryScape.

The company calls it “the world’s first interactive eye-level search that offers Web users a totally immersive world on the Internet.” A “virtual experience of all metropolitan, suburban and rural areas in which visitors can share their stories and opinions about real-life daily experiences against a photo-realistic backdrop ranging from streets and cities, communities, restaurants, schools, real estate and the like.” Yes, I’m not crazy about the lingo, but the idea is a cool one: Just try the preview of San Francisco’s Union Square.

Using a Flash-enabled browser you move through the terrain and ground level (in the middle of the street), and then can tilt your view through all angles. You can click on certain markers for more information, or enter certain buildings. You “window shop storefronts as well as tour the inside of those stores, see their offerings, and access published reviews and other information.” You can add content such as “relevant links, personal reviews, rankings” and things like “a “For Rent” sign and an apartment tour.”


Putting the stuff together doesn’t sound as hard as you would expect. EveryScape’s HyperMedia Technology Platform means anyone with an SLR camera can take pictures and upload them; EveryScape hopes to tap “into local communities and users to assist in building out a visual library of content that will cover the entire world.” A sort of Google Earth at ground level.

Great idea, though of course you can imagine there’ll be a lot of commercial elements to all this. It’s hard to imagine ordinary Joes allowed to plaster streets with their virtual graffiti or anything else that gets in the way of advertising opportunities. The only other concern I have off the top of my head is that Google Earth made some of us wonder whether, after seeing every corner of the globe from a bird’s wing, we’d feel the same urge to travel. Now, after wandering the virtual streets of San Francisco, would we lose our wanderlust?

EveryScape plans to launch 10 U.S. metropolitan areas this year.

How To Fix The Annoying Ringtone Problem

Ringtones. The day of the fancy, polyphonic, clip-from-your-favorite-song-or-theme-tune ringtone is here. Especially in North Asia, it seems. And it’s annoying. It’s like hearing someone turning on a radio full-blast and then turning it off, and jabbering instead. Either you’re just beginning to get into the music, or recognise it, and it’s off. I thought I would never say this, but I miss the inane, twee, monophonic warbles of the old cellphone. At least you knew it was a phone, and what the tune was. Is there nothing better?

You could argue that everyone having their personalized call sign is good, because they know it’s their phone. No longer do you have people grabbing at bags, pockets or private parts thinking the phone ringing is theirs. Unless, of course, everyone just loves the same song so much they all choose it as their ringtone.

But all this does is shift the problem from getting your peace and quiet shattered by inane monophonic warble to getting it shattered by two bars of inane pop tune. It doesn’t seem to actually help any of us excise the intrusion that is the cellphone ringing in public. We’re still looking, in my view, for a way for people to know their phone is ringing without everyone else hearing about it.

My solution is simple, and probably not very original. But I haven’t read it anywhere else, so until someone points me there, I’ll assume this is My Own Idea. When people buy their phone, they record their own voice saying ‘hi, this is Joey. Leave a message’ for the voicemail. Then Joey hands it over to his mother/father/foster parent or other significant elder in the family and has them call out “Joey!’ at a reasonable volume. That recording becomes Joey’s ringtone.

The point? Joey’s always going to recognise his ma’s voice, across the room, across town, across continents. Mothers’ voices have that kind of quality. So he’s going to hear his phone ringing. But everyone else on the train? Unless they’re called Joey, it won’t register. If they are called Joey, it’s unlikely the voice is going to have quite the same impact. Simple. Joey will know his phone’s ringing. No one else is disturbed, because people are calling other people’s names all the time.

Ok, the business end of all this? Set up an online service that lets people record and store them saying their children’s/spouses/relatives’ names. Every time one of the folk involved buys a new phone, they can just synchronise it with the website and download the appropriate voice calling their name, even after Ma has passed onto that cellphone-free waiting room in the sky. Cellphone providers etc would jump at the advertising opportunities. is taken, but doesn’t seem to be yet. I’m onto it.