A flight of fancy with virtual reality

8 months ago admin Comments Off on A flight of fancy with virtual reality

Your next flight may be booked in virtual reality, with a company called Navitaire today unveiling what it says is the world’s first virtual reality travel search and booking experience.

Navitaire, which was acquired by Spanish tech giant Amadeus in January last year, says its new prototype lets travellers spin the globe, search for flights, walk through a plane to select their seat and pay for their entire trip within virtual reality.

“I see a future in which the internet will be a 3-D experience, and everyone will have their own portable 3-D headsets,” Navitaire developer Justin Wilde, who came up with the idea, tells The Australian. “This will be a much more natural experience for us because the world we live in has three dimensions. I think technology, and the way we design user experience online, should reflect that too.”

With Wilde’s VR booking experience, the traveller begins by standing on a platform in the clouds, facing a giant globe. The user can spin it to select a destination, and suddenly there they are — staring at the London Eye, for example.

If the traveller likes what they see they can then purchase a flight and go through the entire booking process up to payment.

When selecting a flight, the traveller can walk through the plane cabin to find the right seat, and when booking a rental car they can hop in and try different cars.

Wilde says in future the prototype may include hotel booking and social features so the traveller can see where their Facebook friends have been as they spin the globe.

He says he completed the first booking using his VR search and booking web application on December 31 last year in the Navitaire offices in Salt Lake City.

For now it is still a prototype, however, with a patent pending.

“For airlines and travel providers, virtual reality could offer a great opportunity to really promote the value of their added products and services,” a Navitaire spokesman tells The Australian.

“It would be so much easier for a traveller to see the value of a premium seat with extra leg room if they actually get to walk through an aeroplane cabin and sit in their seat in virtual reality before they book.

“For the generation of digital natives growing up now, how will they want to shop and search for travel? This could be a great way to position an airline or travel brand with future generations.”

The invention comes as Australian property seekers are now able to tour properties in virtual reality, with realestate.com.au late last year launching what it says is Australia’s first VR property app.

The Realestate VR app, available on Google’s mobile VR platform Daydream, lets users take a walk through their potential next home. Property seekers can then inspect properties in minutes from wherever they are rather than having to drive across town.

REA Group chief inventor Nigel Dalton says by 2020 most Australians will have VR headsets, and he expects real estate agents to embrace the new tech to create a new experience for property seekers.

“Virtual reality has the unique ability to give us back time, which is the most precious commodity we have,” Dalton tells The Australian.

“Real estate VR will create time for everyone, whether that’s property seekers, agents or property managers.”

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