Flying Without Wings

F

Everyone could do with a holiday right now. So why not give your audience a virtual vacation, with an interactive trick you can perform over Zoom (or Skype, or Teams, or fax (ok, maybe not fax)).

The Idea

Use Google Earth to reveal a chosen location, so people can ‘fly’ there.

The Details

In case you haven’t used it recently (or ever), Google Earth isn’t magic, but it feels pretty magical.

Go to https://earth.google.com/web/ and have a quick play. Just type in any location and watch as you zoom out, fly across the globe, then zoom back in again.

Yes, yes, I know it’s been around for a while, but still – how cool is that?! You know, with products like these, I think this Google company could end up being quite successful.

Anyway, ever since Google Earth launched, I’ve wanted to use it to reveal a chosen location, and I finally got the chance to try it in a recent online show.

I’ll share how I did it, then some other directions you could take it in.

Set Up

Before the show, email someone who’ll be watching – friend/colleague/booker/CGHQ – and tell them you’ll be using Google Earth in a trick, and you’d like to show it on their computer. Well call them Amelia (as in Earhart).

To make sure everything goes smoothly during the show, ask them to try a quick trial run. Reassure them that it’ll only take a few minutes.

Now ask them to do the following:

  1. Get Google Earth up on their browser – email them the URL if need be.
  2. Share their screen with you.
  3. Enter a test set of coordinates you email them:
    e.g. 33.8568° S, 151.2153° E (Sydney Opera House)
  4. Make sure the button in the bottom-right corner is set to ‘2D’ view (about 45 degrees up), rather then ‘3D’ (bird’s-eye view), as it makes for a better reveal. Just click to toggle it.
  5. Explain that you’ll send them a prediction but not to open it until you say so. This message should contain the coordinates of the location you’ll be revealing. If you’re worried they’ll be premature, you can send it as a password-protected pdf, then give them the password during the show.

You’ll also need some way to ‘influence’ an audience member to select your chosen location. I just wrote locations on blank-faced cards, but I imagine a list-based magic app could also work well.

Location Location Location

I used the Eiffel Tower as my location, but to add a hint of magician-in-trouble to the reveal, I used the coordinates of the version built in Las Vegas:

36.1125° N, 115.1725° W

That way, we started in the UK (where I’m based), they chose the Eiffel Tower, but when we ‘flew’ off, we headed West towards America rather than East towards France. Oh dear.

But then, as we zoomed in, the Vegas Eiffel Tower came into view, and everything was rosy. This also had the advantage that the Google Earth search results window in the top-right showed ‘Planet Hollywood’ rather than ‘Eiffel Tower’, so it didn’t pre-empt the reveal.

If you pick another location (which I’d encourage, to make the trick more your own) then go for somewhere similarly recognisable-but-not-instantly-labelled-by-Google-Earth.

Performance

Say that we all need a holiday, so we’re going to fly somewhere together, virtually. And they can pick the holiday destination. Also mention that you’ve emailed a prediction before the show to whoever it is.

To justify the selection procedure, say that in case people think that you’ve discovered their favourite holiday destination, by hacking their frequent-flier account or something, you’ll pick one at random.

They ‘choose’ a location, then you have Amelia share their screen, cut and paste the prediction coordinates into Google Earth, then press Enter and watch…

Up, up, up you go, then across, then down, down, down, until you ‘land’ at the chosen location. Then Google Earth does it’s version of a goal/touchdown celebration – its nifty circling-around-the-location thing.

That’s it. A mentalism trick that feels light and playful, with a reveal that doesn’t involve writing on a pad.

Considerations AND Variations

Depending on the speed of their internet connection, and/or how many people are on the video call, the ‘flight’ may be a little jerky, but it’s still a fun reveal. And you can try and minimise this by getting people to turn off their cameras.

To use the terminology from my earlier post, don’t treat this trick as an unchangeable Clock, use it as an interesting Block you can add to other routines.

A few starting points for ways to vary it:

  • Reveal an animal with the Nazca Lines
  • Reveal a symbol (triangle) with the Flatiron building in New York (with 3D view)
  • Reveal a shape (heart) with Galešnjak
  • Reveal their house, if you happen to know its location
  • Or go a different way – suggest a target destination, then they create two seemingly random big numbers, which end up being the correct coordinates

Have a think and let me know what you come up with.

Now sit back and relax, as we reach our cruising altitude of zero thousand feet.

PS Don’t miss the second new post this week – see below or here for Nikola Arkane’s great version of my Reservoir Jacks idea.

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