Amazon launches Explore platform, offering virtual tour, shopping, and lesson experiences

Amazon has launched a new platform called Explore that utilizes its own live-streaming tools so people can take virtual tours with guides, have one-on-one lessons, buy clothes with personal shoppers, and more.
Explore works by connecting people to their hosts via one-way video and two-way audio. There are a number of experiences available, from sessions that teach skills such as cooking, to virtual shopping with advisors from around the world, to taking tours with guides.

These experiences vary from $10 to $200 and usually range from 35 minutes up to an hour. Discovering the secrets of smoked fish tacos from a Mexican surfing champion, for example, is $33 for a 40-minute session, while an hour-long visit to NYC’s central park is $150. The prices are set by the hosts, though Amazon declined to say how much of a cut it takes.

Some might wonder why you’d pay for these experiences when you can get the same sort of thing on YouTube for free. It’s because Amazon’s service offers a different level of interactivity. During tours, users can have one-on-one conversations with hosts, speak to locals, and click on local points of interest to indicate they want to know more.

During cooking lessons, you can buy ingredients that the host will ship to you, while shopping experiences involve shop owners answering questions about products and showing them off at different angles for a better look. You can also take photos at any time using the camera icon at the bottom of the screen. All purchases are completed through your Amazon account, and the company reimburses hosts for any items that are bought.

Amazon Explore only works on laptops and desktops right now, and requires Chrome, Edge or Safari, a working microphone and some speakers (or headset), as well as an internet connection of 5 mbps or higher. It’s currently in public beta and only available to US users by invite-only.

With more people avoiding trips abroad because of the pandemic, companies are looking to replace these IRL experiences with virtual ones. Airbnb started doing this in April when it launched Airbnb Online Experiences, and now Amazon has followed suit.