Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Four Favorite Ways to Use VR with Travel

Virtual reality headsets may not be mainstream yet, but VR is already showing a dynamic range of applications and uses.  A few weeks ago, the CTO of LikeLive gave a presentation and demo of their sportscast app.  It kicked off my thinking of how the travel industry could make best use of the unique features of VR.  The following are my top bets:

1. Showing you new locations

Ok, so maybe this one you could have guessed.  As I wrote in a previous post, a huge part of successful travel marketing is getting the traveler to envision themselves at the location.  Travel agents have historically used incredibly descriptive and visual language, and travel ads always feature colorful and detailed pictures of the property.  VR allows hotels and tour operators to take this trope to the extreme by literally immersing you somewhere else.  Marriott has done a tremendous job of this already.  They set up virtual reality booths (complete with headsets, headphones, and wind and water effects) outside City Hall in Manhattan to catch newlyweds; viewers were transported to London or Hawaii to experience a Marriott honeymoon vacation.

2. Ecotourism (to the extreme)

Besides showing you a new place you may want to visit, perhaps there's a reason you want to stay at a distance.  Ecotourism has steadily gained in popularity as more travelers increasingly seek to choose travel destinations that support conservation efforts.  Virtual reality creates the opportunity to get up close and personal with endangered species and locations (such as coral reefs) without jeopardizing the native balance by disruptive behavior.  Discovery Networks has already partnered with VR company Littlstar to develop videos highlighting threatened and protected animals.  Make sure to click around as the video plays to see the full 360 view!

3. Accessible Tourism

Another niche area of travel is dedicated to trips and excursions that are accessible to those with limited mobility and/or disabilities.  While ecotourists may intentionally choose not to travel to certain destinations, other travelers may find themselves physically unable.  Google has already started making inroads here with their extreme dedication to Google Maps.  See the video below for a view from the top of Mont Blanc, part of an entire climbing experience Google has made available on a variety of platforms.


4. Travel...to the Beyond!

What about locations people haven't even been to yet?  NASA has you covered.  As we increase the range and capabilities of space probes, we will be able to experience destinations human beings have yet to step foot on.  Don't forget to click around in the video!

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