Ever wanted to a have a quiet word with Drake just before he walks onstage at a major concert?
Ever wondered what the view is like from Leonardo DiCaprio’s seat at the Oscars?
Ever wanted to hear exactly what it sounds like to be in the tunnel with the New England Patriots moments before they take the field?
Now it’s possible to find out. Two new mobile-based video conferencing apps allow entertainers and athletes to chat live with their fans via a face-to-face, one-on-one video link.
Hypothetically, all you’d have to do as a fan is get your hero’s attention and pay their asking price.
Chatting with the Stars
The apps in question are called Onlooker and Chatter for Charity, which both launched earlier this year, and they make all of the above fantasies possible by marketing themselves to celebrities as a way to bond with fans and earn some dollars for themselves or their favorite charity.
The procedure is simple enough. Celebs sign up to the services for free, and then list an asking price per five minutes of private conversation with whichever fan is willing to pony up the dough.
As the service includes a native video conferencing platform there’s no potentially awkward or unsafe exchanging of contact details, even so much as a Skype handle. This means users can have an intimate encounter without any privacy or security concerns. And the new services do not offer recordings of the conversations, so there’s no chance a personal, unscripted comment goes viral on social media.
This type of celebrity video link has been tried before, namely through media personality Dr. Drew Pinksy’s startup Greenroom. There were others too, such as Huddlewoo and LiveNinja, which pitched themselves more toward expert advice rather than celebrity small talk, but none seemed to capture the attention of the big name stars needed to captivate public interest. There are few banner names left on the Greenroom site, unless you want to ask Antonio Sabato about his recent appearance at the Republican National Convention.
And there’s already been a major controversy with a similar service, when an Australian startup imploded within a day of its launch after the inventors started dropping celebrity names like Will.i.am and Richard Branson without permission.
However, the two newcomers have secured the names of A-listers such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Drake, as well as sports stars Ronda Rousey and Sidney Crosby, and a few NFL talents.
Those names, and the fact the new apps are smartphone-based, could see them flourish where others have stagnated.
Video Conferencing for Charity
The involvement of DiCaprio and Drake has been attributed to the charitable side of the celebrity chat app.
Both will appear as the prize for a $5 raffle to benefit charities, offering the lucky winners five minutes of their time for a personal video call. Celebrity appearances at charity galas help raise millions of dollars, especially if Mr. DiCaprio and his glamorous friends are involved, and while a video chat seems unlikely to pull in the big donors like a gala can, it’s still a simple, effective idea that makes the most of the celebrity’s limited time.
However, there’s plenty of scope to move the celebrity connection beyond just a basic chat, and drive up the amount of money that can be raised.
Using a mobile app makes all of the fantasies we opened this post with possible. If Drake can hold a smartphone in front of his face before he walks on stage, or if he’s willing to drag it out there with him, one of his fans can get a truly unique experience for which they may be willing to pay thousands of dollars.
With more than 50 concert dates still ahead of him this year alone, that gives the Canadian rapper the chance to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity without having to sit down to dinner with a room full of strangers.
Video Calling in Zero Gravity
Aside from using celebrities to drum up revenue for charities, the new apps could offer users unique experiences and insights.
There’s little doubt NASA could find an astronaut or two who could take high bidding space buffs on a guided tour of any number of launch sites, training facilities, and laboratories. The two-way connection of a video conference means the bidder would be able to chat in real-time with their guide, allowing them to ask every little question they’ve ever conjured.
If space isn’t your thing, perhaps a backstage look at the goings on at the Oscars or Grammys? It needn’t be a celebrity who guides you around if the view from the smartphone includes the unseen drama of dressing room comings and goings, and the frantic preparations of all manner of stars.
Or maybe, one of those Patriot players signed up to the new services would be willing to let you sit in with him during NFL training camp? It’s a chance to see the team-only secrets that even Hard Knocks has to cut out.
Whatever the scenario, there’s a lot of potential should these new apps land in the hands of someone who is willing to let fans in on a secret world they can currently only daydream about.