A Room with a View
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by Joe Harkins - Jul 08, 98
"What does the resort look like?" Until a year or so ago, a travel agents usual answer was to hand the prospective traveler a slickly printed brochure whose carefully arranged photos were capable of making the Bates Motel in the horror movie "Psycho" look like the Hotel Waikiki Beach.
Thanks to the web and web cams, The Bates may still be a mystery, but at least youll now know what that Hawaiian resort actually looks like. Or if snow is in your plans, you can "look out the window" at the lift-line during a July snowfall in down-under, reverse-season Australia.
The concept of sending live video over the Internet is still somewhat new. So far, only a few web sites seem to have recognized the potential of showing a visitor around the grounds. Many still see live Internet video as a novelty and limit the available views to a single shot fixed on one scene. This usually provides a video-feed that is almost as static as the glossy flyers in your travel agents wall rack. Some are as inviting as what a security guard sees between sips of cold coffee.
Youll have to go to Hawaii (Im packing! Im packing!) to find a hotel that knows what guests want before they make a reservation. The Sheraton Waikiki offers a live, moment-to-moment view of their beach from a web cam facing towards Mauna Kea.
When I visited that web camera, it was dawn in Honolulu. Waikiki Beach looked as peaceful and clean as the day Captain Cook arrived. In another thoughtful touch, theres a set of links directly below the live shot. These will take you to archived views of the same scene at other times of the day.
Then, there are web sites whose entire reason for existing is to deliver pre-recorded videos of selected resort properties and the local amenities. The opening page of Hotel View invites you to "Go before you get there." But, before you do that, youll need to download Real Player a free software program that empowers your computer to see and hear videos.
Resort Cams, an online service from Resort Sports Network is a slicker, more commercialized version of "see before you go." The home page offers a "Sports Cam View of The Hour" but the site could use a dose of "truth in advertising." The so-called "live view" of sites labeled as being in the wee hours of the morning (such the slopes of Australias Thredbo Ski Resort at 2:33 in their morning) were illuminated with suspiciously bright sunlight. I know Aussies are tired of jokes about being upside down, but I wonder how they feel about having the days and nights backwards?
Cabo San Lucas' Cabo Cam at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula not only has multiple cameras fixed at strategic spots around town, but they recently announced they are adding "CamRover", a vehicle-mounted videocam that will roam the beach broadcasting enticing views over the Internet. Ive already bookmarked it. It may be comforting next January when the sleet of a winter storm rattles my windows.
Because the live web cam is still a novelty, sites that catalog them are often created by amateurs. A Massachusetts-based psychology student offers web cams around the world neatly cataloged by region and country at Live Cams.
My personal favorite live cam is the 24 hours-per-day tele-photo web cam that Shareholder Communications Corporation aims at the Statue of Liberty from their Manhattan Financial District offices. Zoom in on the white apartment building in Jersey City, just beyond the statue, to the right of her shoulder. Now focus on the top-floor window furthest to the right. Thats my apartment and thats me there at the window, waving. Do you see me?
(note: The material that appears below may or may not have been published in your local newspaper depending on the available space in this week's edition.)
Other Rooms; Other Views:
I'm not sure exactly what you'll see today, but at this moment, as I'm writing this column and while late morning traffic is blaring past my urban apratment building here on the east coast, I'm watching a glorious sunrise brighten the mountains on the northeastern shores of Lake Tahoe.
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