Vacations can be pretty horrible. There is no shortage of headaches involved with picking the vacation destination, taking time off work, organizing the schedules of your traveling companions, packing and spending all that money. What will the vacation of the future look like? To that end, Expedia.co.uk recently released its Holiday of the Future, which has some enlightening predictions about how technology will ease our travel woes.
There are some bits in the report about paying for vacations with crypto-currency, predictive travel booking algorithms to plan efficient vacations and every step of the vacation from packing to checking-in at the hotel being some sort of automation. Most of those were common thought futurist dreamscapes based on current technology and forward thinking in applicable situations. This wasn't what piqued my interest.
Checking-in at the hotel is boring no matter which way you split it, but never physically going to the hotel and still experiencing being there is much, much more interesting. One of the contributors to the report, Rachael Power of Virtual Reality News, suggested that travelers will be using augmented and virtual reality technology to take a virtual test drive of their vacation.
"Virtual reality has the potential to radically change travel. People can 'try before they buy' by visiting locations in VR, from the UAE to the Irish Wild Atlantic Way," Powers told Expedia. "It also shakes things up for those who are immobile or on smaller budgets; the view from Machu Picchu is now simply the cost of a Google Cardboard headset away."
We tend to think about VR as just a visual and auditory experience. If that all VR is at the moment then VR has a long way to go before it becomes a tool for destination vacations.
"There's a VR Grand Canyon app out that's kind of neat," VR developer Ralph Barbagallo told Motherboard. "You canoe through the Grand Canyon, interactively, but unless you've actually been to the Grand Canyon, there's no way current VR technology can come close to simulating that experience."
Close is a relative term. But close is just around the corner. Companies like PrioVR and AxonVR are already working on full-body interaction VR rigs. These rigs will enable the users to feel the virtual environment and not just see and hear it. While the users still wouldn't be able to smell the mule as it ambles down the trail, they'd be able to move around and interact with a virtual environment that mimics the real one. If nothing else, as the Expedia report points out, destinations could easily use VR to sell vacations.
"I think VR is definitely going to influence travelers on where they are going to spend their money," John DiScala, who travels around 150,000 miles, visits 20 countries per year, and is known as Johnny Jet, told Motherboard. "Nothing is ever going to compete with the real thing. You take a tour of these places, the rooms, the pool, the spa, it will really help with the spending decision but I don't think people are going to sit on the couch taking a wholly virtual vacation without wanting to actually go there."
Marketing opportunities aside, hotels and travel locales could create VR experiences that offer the sensation of taking a vacation at a much lower cost. While VR might not replace true physical experience, it might offer an exciting option for those of us who prefer to take a staycations rather than true vacation.
"I think a five-star hotel gives you an experience beyond what you can see," Barbagallo, the VR developer, continues. "I mean visually I could be at a luxury hotel, but still sitting on my crispy Walmart sheets."