VR, or "virtual reality," is the new buzzword in technology and the travel industry may just be one of the first to bring this phenomenon into mainstream marketing. Who wouldn't want a "real life" experience in the Amazon before committing to a $10K-plus investment? As virtual reality becomes more and more accessible, companies like Marriott are diving right in.
In a recent article published by Bloomberg Business, Marriott is calling their VR experience "4-D" and creating one of the most innovative teleportation-like journeys in the industry. To create this experience, Marriott developed personalized "teleporter stations" as part of the hotel chain's Travel Brilliantly campaign. The stations allow the guest to enjoy a 360-degree virtual experience, including movement, wind, smells and sounds which feels like you traveled into another dimension without ever leaving.
When we asked Chris Bazos, Co-Founder & President of Travelous, a private tour company, what he thought of VR and how it's about to impact the future of travel, he was excited at the opportunity of how this would transform his industry.
Early adopters of airlines, hoteliers and tour companies like his realize its potential -- and the advantages to utilizing the immersive technology to stand out among other service providers. He believes VR is poised to enhance the overall travel booking process, by providing the ability to explore a location and virtually "try before you buy" it.
"No longer is it just about itineraries, bloggers, reviews, images and video. Anyone in travel right now should be rethinking their content strategy with VR in mind -- a very exciting time for the travel industry and travelers alike," says Chris.
According to Bloomberg, Thomas Cook, one of Europe's largest travel companies, went to Egypt to film the pyramids, six different hotel properties, and live-action biking on sand dunes. These videos will be used in their next marketing campaign where they will be utilizing Google Cardboard, an inexpensive VR player.
The players, along with 5,000 virtual brochures, will be mailed to their target audience, allowing the viewer to use their smartphones to enjoy custom-branded VR experiences via the downloadable app.
Shawn Smith, founder of nadaCliché -- what he calls "The Black Sheep Travel Blog" -- is no stranger to traipsing the globe and capturing the essence of resorts, hotels and tours to enhance their visual experience through marketing and communications.
Shawn is excited to embark on this new adventure in technology and creativity. Much like Bazos, he believes VR will play a major part in selling the experience.
"It is the next evolution of 3D tours for the hospitality industry, which can showcase their offerings in a more interactive fashion. Hate it or love it, it's gonna happen. As a traveller who strives to discover the underdogs in the hospitality industry, I think the technology can lend great support in opening people's eyes. Don't believe that this 3 star 5 bedroom boutique hotel is as luxurious as the 5 star hotel down the street? Well then...*hand over the VR headset*... see for yourself," says Smith.
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One of the most common complaints from amputee victims is the feeling of phantom pain -- feeling the missing limb but not being able to see or control it. Exactly what causes phantom pain is unknown, but it's likely a result of the brain still recognizing the limb even though it's no longer there. Despite the frequency of this problem, there's no one method of dealing with the pain that works for all amputees. But an experimental study, detailed in the journal Frontiers for Neuroscience, soothed one man's chronic phantom pain after 48 years of suffering by allowing him to not only see a virtual representation of the limb, but also to control it using electrodes attached to the base of the missing limb that measured muscle movement. The patient reported a drastic improvement in his phantom pain. The therapy needs to undergo more tests before it can be more widely used in treatment.
Burn patients, as well, can benefit from the use of virtual reality. Suffering through agonizingly painful treatment and therapy (such as the cringe-inducing "skin stretching" therapy) can be eased through a virtual game called "SnowWorld," first used by Loyola University Hospital in Maywood, Ill. The game puts victims as far from their injuries as mentally possible by letting them shoot snowballs at penguins and snowmen while jamming to Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" (or whatever else they choose to listen to). The treatment helps distract patients by letting them have a little fun while also visually simulating a more comfortable environment for them. MRI results, as well as patient testimony, show that it's succeeding.
VR has been effective in treating soldiers who have returned from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan and are suffering from PTSD. In this video, you see how the patient is gradually kept under stress by visiting a virtual representation of a Middle Eastern town. The therapy keeps the patient under reasonable amounts of stress so that he can learn to handle the stress and, hopefully, control it. While many consider this treatment controversial, proponents say it can be effective for some patients when used in conjunction with other forms of treatment. PTSD isn't the only psychological disorder VR can help to treat. The Virtual Reality Medical Center says phobias, anxiety disorders, and panic disorders can all be treated as well.
Virtual Reality has proved effective at treating children with autism. It can help them learn social cues, fine-tune motor skills, or experiment with real-world lessons like waiting until it's safe to cross the street. One reason behind the treatment's efficacy could be that children with autism interact well with technology, specifically virtual reality. Justine Cassell, director of Northwestern University’s Center for Technology and Social Behavior, told NBC News that it's the technology's predictability, controllability and "infinite patience" that makes it such an effective teacher for these children. While these two youngsters are working with an Xbox One Kinect in this photo (also a sort of virtual reality), head-mounted displays are also used in this research.
Medical students don't have very many chances at the "error" part of trial-and-error learning. It's a big jump from operating on a human in theory to making the first cut on the operating table. Virtual reality makes "practice makes perfect" more practical. Recent uses of virtual reality in medicine include
It's not just medicine that's being improved by virtual reality. Some are finding uses for the technology in some surprising industries like the financial industry. An experiment by the Virtual Human Interaction Lab used virtual reality goggles to show 20-somethings what they would look and move like in their 60's in an attempt to get more young people to start saving for retirement early. The experiment worked. According to ABC News, those who wore the goggles put twice as much money into a hypothetical retirement account than those who did not.
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