Travel Technology

VIRTUAL REALITY: WHAT POTENTIAL FOR THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY ?

Technology. This is the key word when it comes to Travel!
It all started with the emergence of the web almost 20 years ago. But mobile dimension has been the REAL revolution! And now particularly, in a context where mobility has become prominent, wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) are core! I do believe in the potential of NewGen smart devices!

Some examples of notable wearables

Major example when we refer to wearables is pioneer Google: you all have heard of the Google Glass.
GoogleGlass_SNCFEven though this wearable has not encountered the success expected, interesting initiatives have been developed using that device in terms of travelers services, for instance employees wearing Google glasses to assist travelers and give them contextual information live, like French national rail company SNCF did.

Today one of the most popular wearables is smart watches, which I believe are soon going to become mainstream. Since I have my iWatch I am addicted to it! This connected device is just so easy to use! You can order a taxi, look for an itinerary and being guided using the GPS feature, and interact simply by being notified on your wrist.

Wearables are also powerful in a prospective context. I refer here to Virtual Reality (VR). With the Oculus Rift now being available on presale since January 6th 2016, I can foresee a great potential, even though one does not primarily think about its application in the Travel Industry, as it has initially been designed for gaming.
I had the opportunity to test two airlines VR applications on the Oculus Rift headset. Let me share my impressions, and share some insights on the potential of VR in the Travel industry.

Zoom on Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) can be described as an Immersive Multimedia technology. According to Wikipedia, VR replicates an environment that simulates a physical presence in places in the real world or an imagined world, allowing the user to interact in that world. Virtual realities artificially create sensory experiences, which can include sight, hearing, touch, and smell.

This means devices powered with VR are particularly powerful for simulations. Do you see the potential in our industry now?

How can VR be applied to the Travel industry?

To me, VR is a new Content Marketing, and immersive technology offers amazing possibilities. Creativity is the only limit!

I believe that VR has two major usages in the Travel Industry: inspiration and demonstration.
It is an extremely powerful selling tool most of all because it is visual! This technology takes you on virtual journeys in a complete immersive way.

What is the potential for the stakeholders of our industry?

Airlines/rail companies: demonstrate an aircraft cabin, select one’s seat before booking, demonstrate their Business Lounges… I recently experienced Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul and I can tell that this amazing lounge would be worth being displayed in VR!
– Hotels: demonstrate all types of rooms, room views, amenities…
– Airports: experience the whole passenger journey as soon as the traveler arrives at the airport: information desks, check-in, security, shops, lounges, gates, boarding, transfers…
– Destinations (DMOs): demonstrate monuments, natural wonders…
– Car rental companies: demonstrate their types of vehicles available, service desks…
Conference centers, exhibition centers: demonstrate meeting rooms, conference rooms, exhibition space…

And beyond Travel:
– Restaurants: demonstrate dishes, show the kitchen, choose one’s table before making a reservation…
– Theatres, concert halls, football stadiums or any venue with a ticket office: demonstrate the venue, select one’s seat…

This is a non-exhaustive list and however it shows that doors are open!

Can we envisage a VR content marketplace?

Can we envisage a world where you could download a VR video that would actually show you a product in a VR format? My answer is YES!
Don’t forget that we live in a collaborative world! VR is not only the future of Content Marketing, but it is also the future of User Generated Content (UGC): just like you can shoot a video and post it on social media today, let’s imagine consumers / travelers could build their own VR video and share their personalized experience in VR format? The future of travelers reviews… ;-)

How airlines use wearables to demonstrate their products:
Delta and Lufthansa, two pioneers

At GBTA Europe Conference in November 2015, two airlines demoed their product powered by immersive technology, using the Oculus Rift headset. I tested both, and let me share my impressions!
What is great with this device is that you feel IN the plane. The headset covers your whole vision; the sensation is completely different from wearing glasses. It’s immersive. When you turn your head right, you see what is on your right, same for the left, and you can even look behind you.
This is funny for people watching you experiencing VR, as they don’t see what you see ;)

Delta Airlines VR experience

DL_VR_OculusRiftThe experience is not really interactive.
Good part is that a (real) cabin crew take you on the virtual visit, and he describes what you see with the headset (no voice is embedded).
You sit on a stool, and he turns it manually in order to give you the impression to progress in the aircraft as you are being taken to another part of the aircraft.
You experience a US domestic flight, and an international flight. You are in the aircraft but it is actually empty, there are no passengers.

The video mostly demonstrates the difference between classes. It has more an informative function, and as you progress in the plane, you are being displayed pop-up information about the size of the seats, inner space etc.

 

 

Lufthansa VR experience

LH_VR_OculusRiftThe major difference with LH’s VR experience is that it is interactive! You sit in a dedicated chair, and you hold a joystick (Playstation Move Motion Controller) in your hand.

You really feel the fight experience. You’re sitting in the plane in the new LH Business Class, your neighbor says hi to you, the hostess in front of you is busy serving the other passengers in the plane.

There are several scenes that come after each other: you arrive in the plane and hold a drink in your hand (#1), then you are being served food (#2), and finally you end up on a San Francisco beach (#3) as this is your destination! As you understood, the joystick you hold in your hand brings more interactivity: depending on the scene, either it is a glass of wine (#1), salt that you are pouring into your meal, and you end up on a San Francisco beach holding a postcard of the Golden Bridge! (#3)

 

 

Here is an overview of the experience:

It is quite interesting to see that with a similar capability, the approach is somehow different from one airline to the other. It depends on what you would like to show. Creativity is the only limit!
Obviously such interactive experiences encourage upselling.

Conclusion

All Travel sectors can use VR! Leisure Travel, Business Travel, MICE, lifestyle… We are entering a new era of content. Consumers seek for more and more experience. VR plays the role of an excellent appetizer to engage them!
Could we imagine a marketplace where you can download VR videos and play them directly on your headset? YES! This would make the wearables popular trio move into a quartet: smartphone, tablet, smart watch & immersive device!

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