Webcams and drone footage let you visit empty places around the world

[While Zoom and other video conferencing tools provide social presence during the pandemic, stationary webcams and drone footage let us leave our homes and experience the now mostly-empty spaces of the world. This short story from Washington, D.C.’s WTOP highlights some of the “virtual escapes” that have become more popular in these strange days (the original version includes a brief audio news report). For more examples that include photos and videos see:


[Image: St Mark’s Square in Venice. Source: TimeOut. Credit: Shutterstock]

Webcams on empty streets, travel destinations offer virtual escape during pandemic

By Michelle Basch
April 11, 2020

Missing that view of D.C. that you used to see during your daily commute or morning run? Vacation plans canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak? Take a virtual escape through webcams and check out the places you’ll go when the quarantine is over.

The founder and CEO of EarthCam said the number of views on their network of cameras has skyrocketed in recent weeks.

“We’ve had a tremendous increase in traffic. Last I checked, it was upward of 70 times what our typical traffic is this time of year,” said Brian Cury. “We’re always here to kind of show the world to the world.”

Some of the most popular cameras now are pointed at the empty or nearly empty streets of Miami, New Orleans, the National Mall and New York.

“Even though Times Square is always one of our more popular locations, it’s really up there right now,” Cury said. “People seem to be obsessed with seeing that there’s nobody to see in the cities. They just can’t believe it.”

People are also turning to beautiful, calming views during the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

“You can take a trip up to a mountain, to a beach, to a whole host of different places and watch spring remotely,” Cury said.

Another, seemingly odd trend? An uptick in views of construction sites.

“A lot of folks … are missing out on sports, (but) we have webcams at some of these arenas like the Las Vegas Raiders stadium construction. So people are going to watch construction where typically that wouldn’t be one of our more popular cameras,” Cury said.

On a more serious note, EarthCam’s cameras are being used as part of the response to the coronavirus.

“We’ve … helped the folks at the Army Corps of Engineers where they’ve needed cameras now to keep an eye on these emergency hospitals that have been set up,” Cury said.


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