Oculus Rift is letting travelers experience destinations in a whole new way before they visit
In the last few years, the technology has begun transforming the ways in which we can experience gaming, entertainment, science, and now, travel.
Numerous travel companies are using the technology to inspire people to travel by creating virtual tours that let them experience the destinations before they actually visit.
Marriott Hotels capitalized on using the Oculus Rift technology through its "Teleporter," a phone booth-like structure combining the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, wireless headphones, and 4-D sensory elements to offer virtual reality tours of destinations. Launched in 2013, the Teleporter takes users through two different tours: Hawaii's Wai'anapanapa Black Sand Beach in Maui and London's skyscraping Tower 42.
What Marriott has done that makes the experience all the more lifelike is add in 4-D sensory elements so that you're not only getting the look of the destination, you're also getting its smells and sounds. So when you're transported to the beach in Hawaii, you can feel the mist of the ocean spray, smell the saltwater, experience the sensation of warm sun on your skin, and even feel waves lapping against your legs.
In the London tour, the floor tilts up to push you forward, giving you the sensation that you're actually standing 42 floors up in the air. You can feel the wind whipping through your hair and hear the sounds of traffic from below.
"One of the first things people say after seeing these destinations through the technology is, 'I want to go there,'" said Michael Dail, Vice President of Global Brand Marketing at Marriott. "It really stimulates the reasons and the passions that people have for traveling because it's so immersive and visual."
See what it's like to experience Marriott's Teleporter:
Marriott is not the only travel company using Oculus Rift, though. Tourism boards, tour operators, and cruise ship companies are also jumping on board, creating virtual tours to entice travelers.
Destination BC, the tourism board for the Canadian province of British Columbia, started using the technology early on to let tourists tour the province with a 360-degree video operated by Oculus Rift. Viewers are virtually transported to the Great Bear Rainforest, where they can see barking sea lions, clear waters of the Pacific Ocean, waterfalls cascading in the distance, and mountainside trails.
Azamara Cruises launched Azamara 3DI, a virtual reality tour of its ships and some highlights of activities in its port cities, including cruising through the locks of the Panama Canal, zip lining through a rainforest in Costa Rica, and taking a horse-and-carriage ride through Cartagena, Colombia.
British tour operator, Thomas Cook, launched a range of virtual reality tours in 2014, testing them out in their concept store in Kent and rolling them out to stores across Europe for trial runs. There were New York experiences where customers were taken on helicopter tours of the city, drives around Times Square, viewings from the top of Rockefeller Center, a boat tour around the Statue of Liberty, and hotel tours across destinations like Greece and Egypt.
By allowing travelers to virtually visit destinations, Oculus Rift is allowing people to access places of interest in an entirely new way.