Late last year, graphic artist Alex Cornell unveiled “Our Drone Future,” a creepy video that imagined a future where police drones persistently patrol San Francisco. It quickly went viral, but Cornell thought his work wasn’t finished—for one, he doesn’t think drones are necessarily creepy.
“I’m a huge fan of drones, I have tons of them, I fly them all the time,” Cornell told me. “It was weird that that’s was the only thing I had out there—this video with a dystopian, dark vibe. I wanted to look at a more consumer take on it, as well.”
Enter Gofor, a startup that will send personal assistant drones to you to help you find a parking spot, take selfies, beam you footage from across town, monitor your house, and walk with you late at night. The thing about Gofor, though, is that it’s not real. Cornell thought it’d be an interesting experiment to to design and pitch a startup, even though the technology isn’t quite there yet to make Gofor a reality. It’s kind of like one of those April Fools Jokes, except it’s not exactly designed to fool anyone—and personal assistant drones could actually be useful.
“A lot of people have been writing it up like it’s true, but the goal here is to say ‘Hey, here’s this future concept—these can be helpful and it’s pretty clear to me that the tech will get there someday,’” he said.
And who knows—someone may actually make something resembling Gofor, which Cornell says is like the “Uber of drones,” to toss out an overused startup pitch. If someone were to take his idea and turn it into reality, he says he’d be flattered, not angry.
“If someone took this idea and just crushed it, it wouldn’t upset me,” he said. “For me, if I wrote a 3,000 word article on drones on my blog, no one would read it. But if I can put my ideas in a way where people will see them and interpret them and maybe do them, that’s great.”
Since posting the video and putting up Gofordrones.com, Cornell says he’s had employees from Google and Texas Instruments email him asking if he was hiring or if they could help out in any way. The response has been so strong that he’s considering implementing it in some stripped down form if he can figure out something feasible.
It wouldn’t be the first time one of his concepts went from being imaginary to a real product—a few weeks ago, he introduced Tickle, an app that allows you to easily exit an awkward conversation by “tickling” your phone, which will make your phone’s ringtone go off.
At the time, it was a complete joke. But a programmer emailed him and said the app could be made, and now he plans on actually releasing it within a couple weeks.
The future drawn up by Gofor is certainly a bit out there—there’s little reason to expect a drone to hold an empty parking spot for you, but a lot of these capabilities are both feasible and useful. And, sooner or later, someone’s going to make an app that can do them. Likewise, the dystopian future imagined by his earlier video could very easily come to pass.
“It’s kind of like I had the angel and the devil on my shoulder, and this is the angel version of the previous one,” he said. “They are two perspectives of what could be.”