Jack Stemmelin Revolutionizes Travel with Explorist AI, Putting the Power of Discovery in Your Hands

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explorist AI screenshot

Traveling can be such an adventure.

Traveling, however, should be easy. Time spent should be on getting to destinations, not trying to find them.

Jack Stemmelin, a former Midlothian resident now in Chicago, understands completely. That’s why he invented an app he named Explorist AI.

“In a nutshell, my vision was to allow every business or venue to curate their own story and not have it told for them,” he said. “Obviously, later on in my development, Doordash, Grubhub, UberEats, and others came into the picture to demand 30% of gross sales, so I added ‘direct to consumer’ ordering and e-commerce to my wish list for my website.”

 

Inspiration for Explorist AI

So, where did the idea come from for Explorist AI? Like many creative people, Stemmelin finds inspiration in many places.

In this case, he had been trying for years to develop a website that would give businesses (specifically restaurants back then) the autonomy to curate a complete experience for someone viewing their business on the internet.

“As a restaurant manager (Blue Point Oyster Bar), accountant (Cheesecake Factory and ESPN Zone), and later information analyst (Cosi Sandwich Bar), I had come to absolutely hate Yelp and Google for allowing irrelevant information to sometimes overwhelm the accurate restaurant info available,” he said. “I spent several years unsuccessfully experimenting with domains I had registered, like eatfantastic.com, mygreatservice.com, and iRestaurateur.com, but nothing pleased me or accomplished my goals, especially given that I was continuously moving the goalpost.”

 

BREAKING THROUGH

The real breakthrough happened about six and a half years ago when Stemmelin shared a virtual tour he had captured. 

“I had recently bought a Matterport camera and was teaching myself how to use it, and I was sharing virtual tours online,” he began. “My friend Patricia Brickhouse – yes, THE late Pat Brickhouse married to Jack Brickhouse (late legendary sportscaster) – commented that she liked it and asked me if there was a website like YouTube where she could look up other virtual tours.”

That was the breakthrough he needed when he realized what Pat had asked for didn’t exist. Stemmelin said it made him realize all at once that virtual tours and other “new media” like drone videos and 360-degree videos were his storytelling medium for his big project. 

“Plus, my project was actually to create a place for the entire world to share virtual reality, augmented reality, etc,” he said.

Stemmelin and the Brickhouses became friends when they met at a steakhouse, where he was a dining room captain in the 1990s.

“They took me out to dinner once on my birthday, and we stayed in touch for years,” he said.

 

WHY THE NEED?

Stemmelin stated that Explorist AI is important for two big and several more minor reasons. 

Big reason No. 1 is that consumers should learn about the places they dine and look around before they take the time to travel. 

“Perhaps you have children or a family member in a wheelchair? Those types of diners sometimes need to ensure their dining choices accommodate any special needs they might have,” he said. “We should also be exploring near places we visit. Explorist AI helps consumers do exactly that, find places using their phone’s geo-location to explore.”

He stressed that big reason No. 2 is that everyone should buy directly from restaurants, hotels, etc., for the best pricing and to help preserve the profit margin to keep their favorite small businesses in business.

“Buying anything from a third party sends the lion’s share of the profit to a parasitic Silicon Valley tech company,” he said.

“Smaller reasons are that we personally feel it’s important that humans explore their world, especially in a vibrant city like Chicago. Mark Twain said it best, ‘It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago — she outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them,'” Stemmelin said.

“Since it’s impossible to visit every place in person before traveling, virtual tours allow you to explore any location instantly, right from your phone. It’s incredibly powerful to be able to transport yourself anywhere in the world someone has captured a virtual tour.

Stemmelin said Explorist AI is important for businesses because the profit margins of restaurants and hotels do not allow for extra charges for some online companies.

“Simply stated, these Silicon Valley companies present an existential threat for small businesses,” he said.

 

PATENT/LAUNCH

Stemmelin said he is applying for a utility patent for two unique processes within the app and is also in the process of trademarking “Explorist AI.” 

The current status is known as a “stealth launch.” 

“We have had the app published to Apple and Google for over two years. But we only recently incorporated AI info certain search functions,” he said. “We have been adding features slowly as we test it with friends and family.”

 

NO STORED DATA

As for the data collection policy, Stemmelin said his app complies with Apple’s vision for the future, which allows users to browse privately and safely. He also said they don’t store data because they simply don’t need it to provide virtual reality content. 

“The only reason we would need it would be to sell it. As a non-profit, we have no desire to be like Facebook,” he said.

“It’s important to note that most restaurant tech vendors for online ordering and e-commerce embedded in our app probably store some user data, but they don’t get it from our app. Instead, It comes from whatever permissions are set by the users’ phone.”

 

EDUCATIONAL VALUE

“Young people should view virtual tours of places around the world for dozens of reasons. We believe virtual tours are a powerful tool for personal growth, education, and global understanding,” Stemmelin said.

He explained that virtual tours provide an immersive way to learn about geography, history, culture, and architecture from around the globe without leaving home. he added that experiencing different environments and cultures can foster empathy, open-mindedness, and a global perspective, which are crucial in today’s interconnected world.

Also, virtual tours can inspire curiosity and a love for travel, encouraging young people to explore and appreciate the world’s diversity.

“Many virtual tours incorporate interactive elements, making learning more engaging and enjoyable compared to traditional methods,” he said. “Virtual tours can introduce young people to potential careers in travel, tourism, architecture, history, and other related fields.”

 

NO CHARGE

Stemmelin said at this time there are no plans to charge for the app. This is due to the decision to launch as a non-profit. 

“We do plan on eventually having a small monthly subscription for venues on the app,” he said. “Plus, we are working on creating advertising within the app which we will sell. But for consumers there probably will never be a charge.”

Stemmelin said if the app is successful, the hope is to finance at least 50 college scholarships annually, awarded to low-income students from the Chicago area. 

“If we achieve success similar to YouTube, we will be able to finance thousands of scholarships,” he said.

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Rick Mauch
Rick Mauch is a veteran of more than four decades in the media. He began writing in high school and immediately went into broadcasting for almost a decade after graduating, working his way to morning drive in Birmingham, Alabama. However, realizing how much he missed writing (though he did continue to do some during his time in top-40 radio), Rick returned to what he loved and has been doing it ever since. Rick's career has spanned a plethora of media outlets, including community journalism, sports, entertainment, politics and more. He's worked in print, broadcast and online media. He also spent several years doing public relations for a children's home in East Texas - still writing on the side, of course. When he's not writing, Rick loves to play golf and do Bigfoot research. He's an avid believer. He also made his first hole-in-one in June of 2020. Rick is married to Junell Mauch. They have five children and three granddaughters

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