Our inspiration for tackling travelling problems stems from the fact that we are all originally immigrants to the USA. We are used to the drudgery of long-haul travel and any method of improving it for us and our peers is an opportunity we jumped in. Another inspiration for this project comes from one of our members who competed yesterday at the ACF Regionals academic quiz tournament and has a passion for learning.
What it does
Our website display fun, interesting facts and other information about the thousands of cities that one flies over during air travel. We have collectively spent many days of our lives staring blankly at a slow moving map that reads a few obscure places such as "Godthab" and "Leon" while wondering and yearning to know a bit more about these places. This yearning is fulfilled with our improvement for the in-flight map.
We show the user interest-piquing facts and foibles about the oddest of places--which coincidentally are all cities with airports out of which American Airlines operates. We also display the local weather in the area and intend to show local news in the future.
Furthermore, our interface contains a full sample in-flight map system, complete with ETA calculations and moving maps.
How we built it
One will probably think at this point, connecting to outside APIs may not be feasible on all fights. Our use of APIs is the best way to test access, but the data gathered can be collected while the plane is on the ground and stored for display. There are 3,782 cities/airports in the system so the cities for which information is shown randomly rotates to give the user variety throughout the flight.
Challenges we ran into
The ACF Regionals tournament was a big challenge because our team leader started the first day of the hackathon at 8am muddling through 10-rounds of quizzing spanning 10 hours--ultimately arriving at 8pm. This was of course planned for but nonetheless posed an unavoidable extra time crunch which was exacerbated by the fact that this is the first hackathon for other members of the team.
A development challenge that took us many hours to work through was displaying the tool-tips with information in a non-intrusive manner. With 3,782 cities/airports there were markers and information windows galore stacked on top of one another. Furthermore it was a challenge to correctly identify all of the information to scrape because many city names are shared with other entries or don't exist on Wikipedia--and we don't want just any old boring information. We did attempt to find an API to see the population of each and display the largest ones en route, however an API that knew the population of towns like Midland, TX did not yield itself and I think the method of slowly rotating the cities displayed is preferable
Plans for the future
In the future we intend to add a quiz element, where we would have challenges such as presenting the oddity or fact to the user and ask them which of the cities they can see that it relates to. Another future development could involve augmented reality to point the user's phone throughout the plane and virtually see through the plane to the earth below with these cities highlighted with the facts displayed in tool-tips over top of them. Future plans would also expand the remit of the information displayed, Wikipedia is a good API for this hackathon but ultimately interesting information can be scouted out and even submitted by the public on Twitter about their little known communities, helping to drive engagement with American Airlines.