Virtual Reality and the Travel Industry
A New Age of Travel with Virtual Reality
The Oculus Rift headset
By Andy Christian Castillo
The future is here! Marty McFly might as well be walking among us: virtual reality is the new reality –- and the applications are endless: from gaming, to filmmaking, to the travel industry, products likeGoPros new six camera mount GoPro's new six-camera mount and the consumer-friendly Sphericam 2 allow travelers to experience locations without actually being there.
Recently, Marriott Hotels featured the 4D head-mounted display Oculus Rift in New York City, where they nabbed just-married couples and sent them away on a virtual-honeymoon to exotic locations. In short, the device allows the wearer to see a 360 degree view of a location, and explore the environment with a controller.
According to Marriott's website, virtual reality is "shaping the future of travel." This isn't some far-off product that will hit the market in the next decade – we're talking actual prototypes set to release in the very near future, if they're not already out there.
Virtual reality companies such as Oculus Rift are sprouting into a digital landscape desperate for new ideas, and hungry for a more immersive entertainment experience. 3D movies were the first step into that world – virtual reality is the next: and it's easy to see the direction that it will take within the travel industry.
Check out your lodging before you arrive. Imagine touring luxury suites before you book them, or being able to see the stretching vistas and slopes of a ski lodge before you head out on a family vacation. Virtual reality gives a 360 degree view of where you're going to stay, before you even get there! According to Sphericam's website, a push of a button allows "totally spherical video in high resolution 4K."
Demo experiences before-hand to save time. Time is a precious commodity -– especially when it comes to travel. At least for me and (when I travel), I'm usually on a budget, and with strict time constraints. I'm not able to go to every place I want to go to, and experience everything I want to experience, so I have to prioritize activities. Virtual reality will allow travelers to test-drive activities through virtual immersion, and make better use of time by prioritizing the best experiences.
Explore new cities from home. Traveling to new cities can be daunting, it's easy to miss the best restaurants and stores amidst the chaos of navigating through the unknown. Get a boots-on-the-ground type experience by using virtual reality to explore new places, before you arrive. Applications are already out there – like Google Maps, which gives a 360 degree, street level view to prospective travelers, so that you can get a lay of the land remotely before they arrive. And be sure that others will quickly follow with a more emersive experience, such as Oculus Rift.
Live vicariously through others' experiences. Do you want to cage-dive with Great WhiteSharks, but can't because of a medical condition? Or maybe you've never been skydiving because you're afraid of heights. Whatever the reason, virtual reality allows people to live extreme, remotely – just like Douglass Quaid (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) in Total Recall; it will let people feel, see, and emmerse themselves into a place or experience, from home.
Create a virtual reality scrapbook. Document your trips in a virtual reality scrapbook – VR-ready cameras are becoming increasingly accessible and affordable to consumers, so the average traveler can easily relive memories virtual reality. Simply toss a product like the Sphericam 2 (which takes 360 degree video) onto the ground, and then relive the experience, later (YouTube already supports 360 degree video).
In addition, the accessibility of cameras makes it easy for traveling agents, visitors centers, and others in the tourism industry to show visitors what a place is like, before they leave on a trip.
Virtual reality products are flooding the market, and they're here to stay. Oculus Rift raised (crowd funded) $2.4 million dollars to create their product, and GoPro has joined forces with Kolor (professional video software), to seamlessly stitch together multiple views into a 360 degree video.
So get ready world: we're about to enter a new world of digital genuis; and it will redefine how we experience reality, and travel – it will change the way that we go places, and give us the ability to remotely experience the world around us, from the comfort of home.
Read more about Travel Gadgets on GoNOMAD
During a deployment as a firefighter with the USAF to the sweltering Middle East, Andy was bitten by the travel bug and smitten with the allure of adventure. Since then, he’s traveled everywhere; and when he isn’t on the road, he’s dreaming of far away places.
A 2016 graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst he’s now at Bay Path University studying an MFA in Creative Non Fiction, and works as a beat reporter at a small daily newspaper. Andy lives in S. Deerfield Mass.