Technology was the last subject on my mind when our tourist guide drew up in front of us outside our hotel in Zhiben. Until, that is, my eyes honed in on the impressive rig that he had constructed at the front of the vehicle, including a phone, tablet, dash cam, and even a couple of USB-powered fans.
It didn’t take him long to put it into action either, starting with a couple of phone calls to his brother and a customer as we set off. So much for the tranquil beauty of the mountains and coastline that my wife and I were hoping to enjoy! Our heads were already beginning to throb with all the noise.
Having finally put his phone down, our guide proceeded to regale us with tales of the wonderful times he and his customers had enjoyed when he took them out camping in his four-by-four. To prove he wasn’t exaggerating, he ran a loop of videos showing the vehicle in action on the beach and in the countryside – complete with shots of happy customers taking in the pleasures of the wild.
Seeing that neither of us had any interest in taking the bait, he changed tack by showing us a couple of videos extolling the fragrance and flavor of coffee beans and tea leaves grown with tender loving care on the verdant hillsides nearby.
As much as I admired the guide’s hustle, it came as quite a relief when we arrived at Little Yehliu, the first stop on our tour. If only his tech rig included an array of smart sensors to alert him when his passengers had heard enough of his patter.
Chances are of course that all new vehicles will have such sensors as a standard feature in the not-too-distant future to detect signs of fatigue and distraction in the driver (assuming there is one) and the mood of the passengers. Indeed, they will be equipped with a veritable arsenal of both interior and exterior cameras that will be able to capture a wealth of visual data that can be used not just for improving safety but other purposes.
Take tourism as an example. Footage taken from the vehicle could be uploaded in real-time to the cloud and combined with clips from the visitors’ phones and other nearby cameras. With a sprinkling of algorithmic magic, the most appropriate shots could then be weaved together to make an instant movie of the experience. How’s that for the ultimate selfie?
Making instant movies like this may not be feasible right now, but with the rapid proliferation of AI, 5G, and cloud technologies it’s not that far away either. As these technologies get easier and cheaper to use, they will provide creative entrepreneurs like our tour guide with opportunities to develop new services that make their customers’ experiences more memorable and generate some additional revenue.
Let’s just hope that they don’t forget to include a quiet mode among the new services. As much as we enjoyed our tour, there were times when my wife and I would have happily paid for a break from the constant chatter of our guide.