Virtual reality is changing the travel industry from a number of different angles. Not only can you travel the world from your armchair via Google Earth, you can also use virtual reality travel apps to plan a holiday. The question is, are we ready to plan holidays using VR and what benefits will VR travel planning bring to our holiday experience? So far, consumers have been slow on the uptake because the benefits are not altogether fully apparent as yet and also because there is a lot of VR out there not worth bothering about. If a brand gets it wrong, they’ve lost us.
Will VR Travel Apps Become Essential Holiday Planning Tools?
But things are improving all the time and we are entering the age of virtual and augmented reality. We might want to dip our toes gently into the world of VR travel planning and for best results investing in a VR viewing device is recommended. Great if you are an early adopter and already have one but you really want to think about the benefits a VR viewing device will bring before investing a princely sum to own one. Navigating the world of VR devices can prove a challenge in itself, so here’s a guide to some of the best VR headsets in 2018. So far, the best selling devices are Google Cardboard, Daydream View and Samsung Gear VR. There’s a wide range of virtual reality travel apps available, so here are a few proving to be consistently popular.
Google Earth VR
Google Earth offers an amazing way to see all kinds of fascinating landmarks on your computer or mobile device, but with the addition of a virtual reality headset device such as the Oculus Rift, you have the ability to embark on a journey that will take your breath away. The travel experience starts in space, and allows you to quickly zoom in to any part of the world you want to see in greater detail, from the top of the Empire State Building or the Golden Gate Bridge to the Swiss Alps or the Amazon River.
The app itself is free, but using it does require the purchase of an Oculus Rift device.
Another free Oculus Rift app, Boulevard allows you to enter and explore a range of museums and cultural sites in San Francisco and England using your Oculus device. However, this fascinating app doesn’t stop there, as most do. This app actually allows you to enter into selected paintings in these museums, to find yourself immersed in the 3D environment. This one will definitely change the way you look at art!
Immersive 360 degrees videos
The German airline Lufthansa created a series of short 360 degree videos that provide an immersive VR travel experience. See San Jose, Hong Kong, and other iconic cities in these fun, interactive clips.
There are many more 360 degree videos available to view free on YouTube. Check out videos by Destination B.C., which showcases British Columbia in Canada, and Discovery’s range of fascinating 360 degree clips, including one that features a dive with hammerhead sharks.
These 360 degree videos can be watched on any YouTube-capable device, but they’re best viewed on a phone in conjunction with a VR-viewing device. No need to spend much for this experience, as you can buy a Google Cardboard VR device very cheaply and use them with all of Google’s Cardboard-ready apps.
Using VR apps for holiday planning
There are VR travel apps that can help with holiday planning, too. Not sure where to go or what to do for your next holiday? Using simple VR devices such as Google Cardboard, along with the VR version of Google Street view, you can visit potential travel destinations before deciding where you want to go. Of course, it is not the same as actually being there, but it can give you a good idea of what your chosen destination will be like.
The ability to “try before you fly” is one reason why so many travel brands are developing 360 degree viewing experiences, but it’s not just travel brands that are using the technology in this way—certain forward-thinking hotels are getting in on the act too. For instance, American hotel chain Best Western now offers guests the chance to use 360 degree tech to check out the hotel before they check in to stay the night.
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