Latest posts by Deeptha Sreedhar (see all)
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It’s an exciting time to be a traveller! Affordable flights that take you further, access to more information than you could possibly need and it’s easier than ever to stay connected wherever in the world you are. As the travel industry continues to boom, augmented reality (AR) is becoming an important tool in many of its facets.
Picking a destination
The world is constantly getting smaller, and destinations that once seemed too far away can now be reached in under 24 hours. With so many options, how can you be sure that you’re choosing a holiday that’s right for you? In 2015, travel agency Thomas Cook offered a helping hand with “Try Before You Fly” immersive 360 VR films made in partnership with Samsung. From exploring the concrete jungles of New York and Singapore to snorkelling in Sharm el-Sheikh, Thomas Cook’s tours could be previewed in-store. Similarly, Australian flag carrier Qantas teamed up with Jaunt to put a new spin on in-flight travel documentaries, taking passengers to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Kakadu National Park while still in the air.
Book your accommodation
Accommodation can often make or break a holiday, and given that reviews from previous guests can vary wildly on popular travel sites, it’s helpful to be able to “see” the property for yourself. Virtual tours of hotels are now becoming commonplace with Best Western recently introducing 360-degree experiences for its 2,000 hotels in North America. Meanwhile, Airbnb is working with start-up Matterport on a pilot program which includes 3D models.
Of course, the marketing opportunities that come with AR are obvious. Not waiting for customers to come to them, Thomas Cook mailed out “brochures” with low-cost Google Cardboard viewers to promote their products with a downloadable app. On the hotel and hospitality front, Marriott used a “Teleporter” equipped with an Oculus Rift headset to deliver a 4D preview of its properties – the fourth dimension featuring a moving platform and digital scent technology.
AR also provides travellers with more quality information while they explore destinations. Popular travel content producer Lonely Planet
was an early adopter back in 2010, with an app that used AR to highlight points of interest. More recently, Booking.com introduced Booking Experiences, a product that provides pop-up recommendations on attractions near you with an option to book tickets quickly and conveniently.
While much of the value of AR in travel and tourism can be linked to existing products and services, it also has the potential to create entirely new experiences that would not have been possible previously. Destination NSW showcased some of the possibilities in 2012 with “Meet the Locals”, an AR experience that helped you get up close and personal with Australian wildlife. “Time travel” also becomes an option. As Priceline Group Inc Executive Vice President of Group Operations Maelle Gavet discussed in an interview with Bloomberg, AR can help you see places as they were in the distant past. AR can also facilitate an enhanced version of armchair travelling for those who, for whatever reason, are unable to actually travel.
Sharing your experiences
Finally, AR has already begun to change the way we share our travel experiences. With the use of 360-degree cameras and VR headsets becoming more prevalent, it’s possible to give our family and friends an immersive taste of our travels that goes far beyond what a simple image or short video can offer.
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