Virtual reality (VR) technology, still in its infancy, is slowly creeping into the travel industry. In the latest development, Marriott said it will make VR equipment and content available in guestrooms of two properties as a market test.
The participating hotels are the New York Marriott Marquis and the London Marriott Park Lane.
Guests who want to try out VR will be able to ask for a Samsung Gear headset and headphones to be delivered to their rooms, along with instructions. They can use the equipment for up to 24 hours to sample new exclusive content developed for the program called VR Postcards.
The first three content offerings are travel experiences, which users will be able to see in 360-degree 3D as they listen to a traveler’s narration. They include a visit to the Andes Mountains in Chile, an ice cream shop in Rwanda and a walk through the streets of Beijing.
It’s the second venture into VR for Marriott, which last fall conducted a multi-city tour of VR Teleporters — phone-booth-like units that individuals could step inside. There, they were fitted out with an Oculus Rift VR headset and wireless headphones. The programming included not only 360-degree 3D video, but also realistic computer-generated imagery, and the booth added “4-D” elements to the experience, like heat, mist and wind.
Earlier this year, Qantas conducted a three-month trial offering Samsung VR headsets to first class passengers on its A380 flights between Los Angeles and Australia, and in its first class lounges at Sydney and Melbourne.
And Emirates last fall used VR to show off its A380 aircraft at a trade show. Visitors put on Oculus Rift headsets and used Google Street View technology to go on virtual tours of the aircraft’s interior.
The big question for travel companies: If customers can use virtual reality to immerse themselves in a 3-D, sound-enhanced travel experience, where’s the incentive for them to actually travel?
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