Share Ideas Across iPads with Idea Flight


According to a blog post introducing the service, Idea Flight “is a new tool to share ideas, presentations, documents, designs, and whatever else you can think of easily from one iPad to many. It enables one person, whom we call the Pilot, to control the screens of multiple iPads, whom we call the Passengers.”

The iPad app was developed within Conde Nast, by a small team focused on creating new digital opportunities for the company. “The inability to give controlled design presentations on the iPad” was a business challenge that inspired team member Don Eschenauer (Director of Design) to create the app.

Internal Pre-Launch

Prior to launching the app in the iTunes App Store, Idea Flight underwent a pre-launch beta internally, with users representing Sales, Design and Project Management.

Juliana Stock, Senior Director, Marketing & Product Development, indicates that the pre-launch helped their “discovery and roadmap validation” and that Conde Nast colleagues “tell us they use it in their personal lives to share photos or at their kids’ schools.”

Use Cases

Stock envisions the app being used “anywhere people have a lead who wants to keep everyone on the same page.” Potential users include:

  1. Education
  2. Cultural institutions
  3. Museums
  4. Choirs
  5. Sales teams
  6. Real estate brokers
  7. Event planners
  8. Companies that license computers and tablets
  9. Small businesses

Beyond Sharing

In an insightful post about the technical considerations behind Idea Flight, Robert Tolar Haining, the team’s Technical Architect, described the scenario that led to the app’s LinkedIn integration (i.e. a new employee who, during a meeting, asked Robert whom was speaking). The “passengers” in Idea Flight sign in to their LinkedIn account and the flight “manifest” lists information pulled from passengers’ LinkedIn profiles.

So the app goes beyond sharing to also address connecting. According to Stock, “as more people rely on devices for creation, communication and connecting, this app triangulates all three” [source of quote].

My Take on: Market Fit

Currently, Idea Flight works over WiFi and Bluetooth and supports a maximum of 15 passengers. As such, it’s suited to small, in-person gatherings and is not competitive with online meeting software, such as WebEx or GoToMeeting (both of whom already have iPad apps and allow presenters to share their entire desktop).

Improving small, face-to-face meetings” may be a good niche market to hone in on, with broader aspirations to follow later on. To achieve broader adoption, the team will want to look beyond the iPad, to support Android tablets and perhaps smaller form-factor devices (e.g. smartphones).

My Take on: Additional Use Cases

We’re sure to see many innovative uses of Idea Flight. Here are two that immediately come to mind for me.

College Lectures

For professors who are so inclined (and for schools with a high adoption of iPads among students), the whiteboard/blackboard goes away. Instead, the day’s lecture is prepared on an iPad, which enables the professors to embed hyperlinks to related content.  For instance, on the first day of class, professors often provide the list of required textbooks. These could be embedded in the PDF that is shared with passengers (students).

In addition, future revisions of Idea Flight could allow for the professor to push out exercises (e.g. quizzes, related reading, etc.) that students are asked to participate in. I’ll call this “hands on learning, enabled with a swipe”.

Conferences and Trade Shows

With iPads becoming prevalent at physical conferences and trade shows, Idea Flight could create a virtual event layered on top of the physical event.

First, attendees at the back of the room could view the presentation on their iPad, rather than squinting at faraway display monitors. Next, publishing the “manifest” to all “passengers” could allow attendees to view the LinkedIn identities of everyone else (connected to the service), enabling a stream of comments and connections.

More Efficient Meetings

New features could make all meetings more efficient. For instance, a “feedback loop” could allow passengers to vote up/down a particular slide, giving the pilot real-time feedback on the presentation.

In addition, a “raise hand” indicator could signal questions to the presenters, without having to interrupt them in mid-speech. Finally, a “leave a note” system could allow passengers to leave comment(s) on particular pages, that presenters could review during (or after) the meeting.


I’m interested in watching the adoption of Idea Flight, including the innovative uses that arise. Use the comments section below to let me know if you’ve tried it.

Watch a Short Video on Idea Flight

Related Resources

  1. Blog posting, “Charting the Course” (on Idea Flight)
  2. Blog posting, “Introducing Idea Flight for iPad
  3. The technical approach behind Idea Flight
  4. The team behind Idea Flight
  5. Idea Flight brochure [PDF]


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2 Responses to Share Ideas Across iPads with Idea Flight

  1. Dave Lutz says:

    Interesting new App Dennis. Thanks for sharing! Something like this could also be used in a modern day computer training lab. I hope they are able to scale beyond the 15 a bit. That could limit the ability to use it in certain environments.

    • Dennis Shiao says:

      Dave – interesting thought to use this app in a training environment.

      Also, as an FYI to those interested, the limit of 15 is due to use of “the Game Kit framework available in the iOS SDK.” Idea Flight notes that there’s a peer-to-peer mode in Game Kit that they may consider, which expands beyond the 15 – more details here:

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