Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Periscope - The New New Thing

Every so often, a game changing technology comes along. Go back far enough - five hundred years would do it - and you could live your whole life without a new invention coming along that changed the way the world worked. Go back a century, and there were a handful of game-changers every generation.

Now, it's fair to say there's something that comes along every few months. The latest that I'd like to point in your direction is an app called Periscope. It's pretty simple, really. The idea is that you can use your phone as a video camera and stream what you're seeing live to anyone in the world who wants to watch on their own phone. It's Twitter (who owns Periscope, fyi), except with video. Those watching can live-text messages to which the broadcaster can respond.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. People are going to broadcast all sorts of stupid crap. Kittens, musings on morning coffee, etc. And you'd be right. Most of it is ridiculous. Think of Twitter's early days, when people posted things like, "Hello, world!" I, myself, "periscoped" dinner from a restaurant, just to kick the app's tires. Not interesting, except a high school friend of mine that I've seen once in 30 years jumped on as a viewer. It was a cool moment.

But that's the nature of new mediums, the inane beginnings. People have to figure them out. As Twitter matured, use cases emerged, and Twitter is now inextricably bound to our culture.

So, where will Periscope go? Let me start with a small use case. I was at a baseball game, watching my son, and I turned on Periscope (one click) to broadcast one of my son's at-bats to my wife, who couldn't be there. She watched on her phone while she went about her business (as did six other people, one of whom was from Venezuela). After, with one more click, I saved the video to my camera roll (obligingly, my boy had hit a home run).

But also in recent days I have watched a live feed from the Baltimore riots, a Q&A with Periscope's founder, and a live demo of the Apple Watch.

But so much more is coming, I suspect. How about watching...

  • an ascent of Everest?
  • Q&As with politicians or celebrities?
  • local or school events?
  • the morning break the Pipeline?
  • an arrest gone bad?
  • a concert you couldn't get tickets to?

I'm only scratching the surface here. Periscope doesn't have a search function yet, but when they do, it won't be long until you'll be able to watch anything of significance going on in the world, live. Imagine that.