Amazon begins offering virtual courses and tours through the new Explore platform

Amazon launched To explore, a new platform that promises to let you “explore anything from lessons to landmarks”. It works via a video feed, with tour guides, instructors, and personal buyers offering one-on-one sessions. Amazon says the video is one-way, meaning only the host is in front of the camera during the virtual experience, but the audio is two-way so you can ask questions and make requests.

The Explore page gives an idea of ​​the range of experiences offered. These include relatively inexpensive sessions like a $ 10, 40-minute virtual shopping experience in Ridgeland, US, to a 45-minute virtual tour of a mansion in Lima, Peru, for $ 70, or a $ 129 bagel cooking class. In some cases, Amazon lists ingredients and supplies to purchase before a session, but says these are optional if you just want to watch from home. TechCrunch reports there are a total of 86 experiences in 16 countries.

Experiences include a virtual bagel baking lesson.

Amazon is just the latest company to start offering virtual events this year as people have had to cut back on travel and other in-person activities. Earlier this year, Airbnb launched its own virtual travel experiences, and fitness company ClassPass switched to offering online classes.

Apple was initially criticized for reducing these virtual purchases by 30%, The New York Times reports, but announced last week that it would temporarily stop cutting back on virtual purchases on Airbnb, ClassPass and Facebook’s online events feature. Amazon’s Explore product pages note that customers can browse and purchase experiences on mobile phones and tablets, although it’s not clear whether these will be subject to Apple’s 30% commission.

According to Amazon, the hosts are from a range of established tour guide companies, including Intrepid Urban Adventures, Bamba, and Essence of Berlin. TechCrunch notes that hosts are in charge of pricing their sessions, but says Amazon declined to comment on the revenue split. If you opt for a virtual shopping experience, all purchases are processed through Amazon’s payment system.

According to TechCrunch, Amazon Explore is currently only available by invitation to customers in the United States. You book by choosing an experience, then choosing a date and time for a session, and these can be canceled or rescheduled with up to 24 hours notice. Although Amazon says you can browse and book experiences on mobile, you’ll need to switch to a laptop or desktop for the session itself.

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