WindowSwap provides virtual travel for those sheltering in place amid the pandemic

[The WindowSwap project lets users visit a website and “voyeuristically travel by looking out of somebody else’s window for a while.” This story from Smithsonian Magazine, where the original version includes seven more example images, also highlights other virtual travel experiences available online. The Kottke.org blog post “Let’s Go for a Stroll Outside” covers, and provides video examples of, another. –Matthew]

[Image: The view from WindowSwap user Ula’s window in Doha, Qatar. Credit: Courtesy of Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam / Coded by Maryam Touimi Benjelloun)]

This Website Highlights Views Outside Windows Across The World

The WindowSwap project provides a virtual travel opportunity for those sheltering in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic

By Claire Bugos
July 16, 2020

With travel restrictions still in place, many would-be tourists are seeking out safe, socially distant options for getting a much-needed change of scenery. Luckily, a new digital venture is here to help: Instead of staring longingly out of your own window, simply visit the WindowSwap portal to see views shared by strangers around the world.

In Aeschiried, Switzerland, potted plants and leafy vines frame a lush mountain scene dotted with red-roofed barns. Cars stream through a busy intersection in Mexico City. Makeup brushes, notebooks and a pink face mask line a desk in Glasgow, Scotland. The sun sets low behind the silvery New York skyline, as seen from Long Island.

Singapore-based couple Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam initially started WindowSwap as a quarantine project among friends, reports Poppy Noor for the Guardian. In June, the pair expanded the project to include online submissions.

As noted on the website’s “About” page, “WindowSwap is here to fill that deep void in our wanderlust hearts by allowing us to look through someone else’s window, somewhere in the world, for a while. [It is] a place on the internet where all we travel hungry fools share our ‘window views’ to help each other feel a little bit better till we can (responsibly) explore our beautiful planet again.”

Travelers can navigate to different continents instantaneously by clicking a button labeled “Open a new window somewhere in the world.” Short video clips appear at random, highlighting such diverse locales as Sankt Augustin, Germany; Glanamman, Wales; Bangalore, India; Istanbul, Turkey; Singapore; Cordoba, Argentina; Okinawa, Japan; San Francisco; and São Paulo, Brazil.

“I feel they have so much character, and it’s the beauty of this thing we started, that continues to transform,” Balasubramaniam tells the Guardian.

To share the view from their own windows, users must record a ten-minute, horizontal video clip.

“All kinds of windows are welcome,” the husband and wife note on their site.

Per the Guardian, Ranjit and Balasubramaniam have already received hundreds of videos filmed in dozens of countries. Submissions range from grainy recordings of small-town neighborhoods to high-definition city views captured by tech-savvy teenagers. An 81-year-old woman living in Massachusetts didn’t know how to submit a video, but she sent a “beautiful photo” instead.

The WindowSwap project is one of countless virtual travel experiences that have popped up since the coronavirus pandemic forced people around the world to shelter in place. Anyone with a device and internet access can take video tours of Frank Lloyd Wright homes around the country, join virtual dog sledding rides, explore some of the world’s most renowned museums, and even walk around the surface of Mars. Take Me Elsewhere, a similarly window-themed website, sets virtual views to music, reports Aaron Holmes for Business Insider.

Like many artists and at-home innovators, the founders of WindowSwap created their campaign to encourage people to continue exploring and sharing from afar.

“Let’s face it, it’s going to be a while before we travel again, and wake up to a new view outside our windows,” Ranjit tells Jessica Goodfellow of Campaign Asia-Pacific. “So, until then, why not voyeuristically travel by looking out of somebody else’s window for a while?”

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