I have seen the future of travel, and it is an octagonal phone booth inside a hotel lobby – “Teleporter”
After signing a waiver that promises you don’t often fall down or throw up, you step into the booth and place a headset over your eyes. “Would you like to be teleported?” a perky assistant asks — it’s a script they have to ask everyone. They also have to warn you that virtual reality can disorient, that you can grip the bars on the Teleporter in front of you for balance, if you’d like.
I grip the bars. There’s a gradual buzzing in my ears. And by weird, surprising degrees, I find myself in the bar of a Baltimore hotel, an hour north of the D.C. hotel where I’m actually standing. The image is hyper-saturated and slightly cross-eyed, kind of like a 3D movie, but still convincing enough that when I look down and don’t see my arms, I don’t immediately know why.
The vision shifts. I’m on a beach in Hawaii. The booth gets warmer; there’s mist off the ocean. In a minute more, it’ll shift again: the floor moves beneath me and I’m looking out over London, the ground many, many indeterminable floors below, the wind picking up around me.
And then, like that, it’s over. Click. I’m in a lobby, feeling conspicuous, and the same high-octane assistant is pulling goggles off my head.