Travel with virtual reality goggles on flights; and now travellers can experience travel from wherever they are; some flights are now also adding VR as part of the flight experience!
With the Oculus Rift VR headset launching soon, travel companies are harnessing virtual reality to let consumers “travel” the world without leaving their room
BY JOHN O’CEALLAIGH MARCH 22, 2016 17:31
Testing an early version of the headsets two years ago, I was able to tour the Tuscan countryside at the flick of a switch – though the graphics were then rudimentary, they are improving rapidly and tech experts expect we’ll be able to “visit” precise replicas of the world’s most popular destinations within a decade.
Prospective superyacht owners can now “walk” around their exceptionally expensive purchases before fully committing to financing their construction.
When Facebook bought the nascent virtual reality company Oculus for $2 billion in March 2014, predictions of a new technology revolution were rife. With Oculus Rift, the company’s much-heralded £499 virtual reality headset, now ready for international distribution the impact on how and where we travel could be momentous.
The implications are innumerable, but beyond benefits such as enabling the immobile to, say, take in the view from the top of Machu Picchu, it could also assist travellers who wish to “try before they buy”. If you’re deliberating between booking a Namibia air safari or an Amazonian cruise, a quick recce trip via Oculus Rift could make the decision that bit easier.
And a number of companies are eager to capitalise on these commercial and promotional opportunities.
The superyacht chartering and sales company Yachting Partners International (YPI) has partnered with VR developers Bricks and Goggles to produce virtual-reality manifestations of as-yet-unbuilt superyachts. It’s an invaluable innovation that enables potential buyers to “walk” around their exceptionally expensive purchases before fully committing to financing their construction. Prospective buyers can get a sense of how their desired yacht would feel in reality, and far in advance of their completion date, so enabling them to change features that aren’t precisely to their tastes far before they have invested in their development. Qantas, meanwhile, is making Samsung VR headsets available in some business- and first-class cabins and lounges.
Champagne house Moët & Chandon is harnessing the power of VR too. Based in London’s Soho until April 3, the Moët Academy will offer visitors the opportunity to virtually tour the company’s vineyards and to follow an immersive experience from grape to glass. The 90-minute sessions, costing £45 per person, are led by wine experts and include the opportunity to taste select champagnes.
Taking a broader approach, American start-up YouVisit is currently expanding its portfolio of VR tours and claims users of its app with a compatible VR head-mounted display will be able to explore more than 1,000 destinations, be they hotels, restaurants or landmark attractions. Polished competitor Jaunt, meanwhile, offers what it terms “cinematic VR”. Its app plants users in the middle of documentary footage of faraway and inaccessible destinations such as North Korea and Syria.
But with virtual reality in essence unreality, travellers aren’t limited to existing places or current times. To celebrate the state’s 50 anniversary last October, Audi drove VR headset-wearing passengers through the city’s streets as their devices displayed surrounding cityscapes from 1965. And at the Disney & Dali exhibition (until June 12) in Florida’s Dali Museum, visitors who don a VR headset will be able to wander within Dali’s 1935 painting Angelus, a transcendental experience that would presumably have excited the artist immensely.
photograph: Moyan Brenn