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Technology: Tune In, Turn On, Go Up

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Late-model luxury cars have dashboard GPS and JetBlue flights feature seat-back DirecTV, but most elevators block out even a humble cell signal. What if the NASDAQ is headed through the floor at the same time you are?

If you work in Worldwide Plaza, you can follow the descent in stomach-churning detail, thanks to recently installed ten-inch elevator screens that silently provide news, sports, weather, and building information. For a fee of about $200 per elevator per month, the Boston-based Captivate Network provides office buildings with constantly updated wireless content -- and local and national advertisers who buy space on the bottom quarter of the screen with the very definition of a captive audience. "Elevator rides are dysfunctional, because there's nothing to do on the way down," says Captivate founder Mike DiFranza, who came up with the idea in an elevator (of course) and has installed screens in Chicago, Boston, Stamford, and two smaller buildings in New York. Despite occasional rumblings about the intrusions of commerce -- one Worldwide rider complained that "this is just the beginning of a Blade Runner-type world" -- he seems to be right.

"It makes the ride go faster," said one Worldwide Plaza vertical commuter the first time she saw it. "It beats staring at someone's dandruff," said another. A third, who said she first thought the idea was silly, came around when "I read that John Goodman has a new series."


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