Photography by Chris Osburn © 2015
The future of international travel? It might be staying put or so it seemed after I settled in and got kitted out for personal demo experience of VRoom Service at The Marriott Hotel Park Lane a few days back.
Just launched this week, VRoom Service is a first-of-its-kind offer allowing guests to order "inspiring" virtual reality experiences to their rooms. Created in collaboration with Samsung Electronics America, VRoom represents the latest in a series of innovations by the Marriott International intended to change how people travel.
Currently being tested for two weeks at the London Marriott Park Lane and New York Marriott Marquis hotels (check with the individual properties for exact dates), VRoom can be requested to use for free by guests in the same manner as they might go about ordering room service meals or laundry pickup. Upon request, the VRoom gear is hand-delivered to the guest's room along with instructions and left on loan for up to 24 hours.
Photography by Chris Osburn © 2015
Upon arrival at the hotel for my VRoom demo, I was whisked up to Room 238, a lush suite with views over Park Lane and out towards the northeast corner of Hyde Park, where the gear was presented to me in a utilitarian metal briefcase and consisted of a set of headphones, a clunky looking headset (think Daft Punk on holiday) and a Samsung mobile to be slid into the headset's visor. The gear sat comfortably on my head as I settled in not to enjoy the local London scenery, but to take in the sights and sounds around an ice cream shop in Rwanda, admire the panorama from atop the Andes in Chile, and observe the bustle of street life in Beijing.
Those three scenarios were the settings of the short "VR Postcard" clips viewed via my headset. Described as "intimate and immersive travel stories" that follow "a real traveller on a journey to a unique destination," the VR Postcards are designed to give viewers an enhanced experience while learning about a destination. Without being any sort of tech geek or audiophile, I have to say in layman's terms that the visuals and sound were amazing.
My VRoom session was kinda mind blowing, if a little wonky. I was pleasantly transported away from London during the brief demo with all the hotel room trappings fading away for the short while I was immersed. Though, I must say I never lost awareness of the fact that there were two strangers - a hotel associate and a professional photographer sitting in the bedroom next to me - with an unknown number of Marriott reps and PR folk waiting just outside the door keen to speak to me about VRoom. Nevertheless, it was delightfully disconcerting to find during the Rwanda VR Postcard that the person who was talking was doing so behind me and I had to look over my shoulder to find her. While watching the same clip, it was slightly creepy (but in a neato sort of way) to glance down at my lap only to see the empty seat of a chair.
As novel as the demo was, the potential application of such technology seems vastly more impressive than the actual VR Postcards I watched. What if we could "virtually" view a hotel room before booking it? Or get wraparound 3D directions to a place we've never been before heading out? What if ordinary folks like you and me could send our own VR Postcards to friends and family when we travelled. In the future will people book hotel rooms to stay in and then spend a day VR sightseeing? Will bloggers be more likely to publish immersive VR posts instead of posts with only text, photos, or old school 2D videos?
The original version of this review was published at tikichris.com.