How many of us haven’t used Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts to have a live video chat with a friend, colleague, or loved one? With modern cell phone and internet technology, this isn’t something new. But what if your goal is to bring together people with different opinions on difficult topics? Chicago Ideas Week Hello Booths were created to allow people from different parts of the city of Chicago to come together and share what they love about the city along with what they want to see improved, and most importantly how they pledge to help make that change happen.
With introduction videos and instruction screens available in both English and Spanish, the application is accessible to the majority of Chicago residents and visitors. Each recorded video is tagged with the language that the participant selected when they recorded the video, so those who speak only one language have the option to view videos recorded in the language(s) they understand.
The first of the three major functions of the application is the live video chat – but not like most video chat applications where the participants know each other. Visitors to a Hello Booth are randomly connected to another visitor at a different Hello Booth somewhere else in the city. They are encouraged to talk about an issue that they have differing opinions about, but to do so in a constructive manner, trying to see the issue from the other person’s perspective. The goal is not to change the other person’s mind, but for each participant to gain a better understanding of the issue, from someone else’s perspective.
The second major function is the recording of a video message where the participant describes what they love about Chicago, what they would like to see improved, and their explanation of the actions they pledge to take to make that improvement happen. Again, there’s nothing new about recording a video with a webcam. However, what makes this application special is that each video is instantly encoded and transmitted to the other Hello Booths where other visitors can view it. Which brings us to the final function of the application – playback.
The final major function is the video playback. Again, in and of itself, this isn’t new technology that hasn’t been seen elsewhere. What makes this feature unique is that the available videos come from other Hello Booths exclusively, and are available moments after being recorded. Each video is up to 2 minutes long, and takes only about 10 seconds to download and play back.