Do you ever wish you could preview your hotel room before you arrive? Maybe you’d take note of the room layout, the distance to the elevator, or the amenities offered on your floor. Or, do you wish you could peruse a neighborhood in a foreign city before you jump on a flight — maybe get a sense of its walkability or its proximity to the major sites?
New virtual reality technology, called Oculus Rift, could someday let you do just that.
Marriott, as part of a new marketing campaign, has recently been inviting guests to put on the Oculus Rift goggles and get a hyper-realistic sampling of its properties, including hotels in London and Hawaii. Users can “walk” around the properties, and even get the added senseory bonus of feeling the temperature change, or an ocean breeze.
While Marriott doesn’t have immediate plans to make this technology available on a mass scale, for all of its hotels, it’s easy to see how easily this technology could help travelers make decisions about where they want to go, and where they want to stay when they arrive.
Can you imagine being able to “see” your exact hotel room during the booking process, or count the number of stairs you’ll need to climb in order to get to the pool or the restaurant? This could be especially helpful for travelers who are booking complex, multi-generational travel, or a trip for someone with accessibility concerns. A realistic computer program could show you exactly what you’re getting before you put down your credit card, and we love that.
Recently, the local Fox station here in NYC chatted with me about this technology, and wondered if it might “replace” real travel for some people. My take? Probably not. Nothing will quite replicate the sense of standing in the Pantheon in Rome, watching the light stream through the portal (the “oculus” — no pun intended) in the famous domed roof. Nothing — not yet anyway — can capture the sense of snorkeling on a coral reef in Maui or whooshing down a traffic-filled street in a tuk-tuk in Thailand. For the more practical stuff, though — booking and evaluating a travel experience before you go — I’m interested to see what Marriott, and companies like it, come up with.