This guest column is by Pratyush Kukreja, COO and Co-Founder, YuMiGo
We all know how indispensable part of our lives our smartphones are, after all they are gateway to our “digital” selves, and they amplify our innate abilities to do new things. What we have failed to realize is that our smartphones are also very powerful teleportation devices, they can help us experience realities in other corners of the globe as if we were there physically – think of it as you becoming the ‘antaryami’ from Mahabharata who can track and monitor real time events elsewhere, without being physically present in the room. This is the power of virtual reality, which is now becoming a mainstream reality.
Well, 2016 is racing towards becoming the first year where Virtual Reality Devices will touch a $1 billion dollar in revenue worldwide. An approximate 70% sale is estimated only through the sale of hardware devices equipping man to enter the VR world and rest through content creation.
For all those who are curious to know what Virtual Reality devices are and the potential they have, here is our take on the newest technology that will change a traveler’s experience entirely. For instance, a virtual reality equipped device specially created for a scuba diving session will allow a diver to feel as if he/she is actually in the ocean, and closely moving with the waves and watching the aquatic life around. Even if he/she moves their head up, one is bound to see a realistic image of the sky. The entire experience is meant to be so real that one gets involved entirely with the visual activity and three dimensional effects.
Let us take the example of a destination in particular that most of us in India have been to — Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur which is popularly known for its heritage and beauty. All those who have visited the fort, are awed by its magnificence and size. Now when you take that experience adds to the VR version, the experience changes to the most cherished and fascinating one, here is how:
Picture yourself extending your arm and being able to zoom in or zoom out on a wall art to visualize it in greater details, getting historical information or interesting facts by just tapping on a piece of art.
Imagine standing over the edge of the fort overlooking the battlefield, and the entire war scene with British Raj can be recreated in front of your eyes, like it would have happened several hundreds of years ago.
You have heard of Try-before-you-buy in apparel, Virtual Reality goes a notch higher and brings together try-before-you-fly in travel. A consumer can go ahead and preview a destination with 360-degree views and experiences before choosing to decide where to go for vacation.
Travel is one of the most experiential purchases for anyone through the lifetime, an experience that expands our minds and pushes the imagination. VR offers an opportunity to combine technology with storytelling, two things that are most important to our generation.
The trip planning process becomes a lot more fun and efficient for the traveler if using VR:
- Post destination engagement promises to change forever through VR postcards that can be created while in destination and shared with near and dear ones. Take it one step further to create VR memories that can be as nostalgic as checking out old photo albums years later.
- More ambitious than simply taking a traveler to places on the other side of the globe, VR can also make possible being part of events, live. VR is equipped to cater to needs like a bot can play the role of a guided tour and enable interactions with the host where one could ask questions and add suggestions to control the experience.
- The technology is so advanced that it can be used for educational trips, destination marketing and field training as well.
- Tourism destinations and hot sites need to continuously reinvent themselves to stay relevant over the years which mean not just capex, but, also investing in branding, communications and positioning. Virtual Reality can help in lowering costs by maintaining a library of VR content which is much in detail and kept up to date. So, be it for taking down trips to Buckingham Palace or even the Burj Khalifa, VR can assure that the records are up to date and informative as possible.
- The scope of VR is also going ahead with virtual space tourism since it makes experiences lifelike and more affordable, than the regular astronaut kind versions could be. Now, to view a 360-degree Curiosity Rover picture, VR makes it readily available on cheap headsets. Moreover, to view NASA’s videos is no longer a big struggle, it can be viewed on Facebook with the help of VR.
VR opens up a drastic new way to reach out to customers and it is dirt cheap to market and possibly causes no harm to travelers or consumers making the best out of it. The dream of being able to teleport to just about any place by donning a pair of goggles is a very powerful tool that man has created. The objective to deliver on this dream is in all likely to keep many companies investing in the goal of making Virtual Reality devices more easily accessible and adding more to its content. Use of smartphones as a VR device is ultra affordable, through corrugated headsets and the typical time spent on linear experiences on VR is close to 60 seconds, which is completely immersive. In case of a non-linear experience, approximate time spent can roughly go upto 600 seconds. Not only can VR be used as an alternate sales channel, it has the potential to increase loyalty through richer personalization and gamification.