January 29, 2018

Airbnb planning to use virtual (and augmented) reality


Airbnb has just announced that they are going to start integrating virtual and augmented and reality into their business model.

The company - having started off using the internet as an aggregator to link property owners and short-term tenants and tourists, is now adding AR and VR as an extra layer to enhance the user experience. The company has divided the use of these technologies into two areas of application: Before the trip and During the trip.

Before the trip, Airbnb explained on their website, potential travellers could use VR to enable potential customers to view properties that they were considering renting and explore them in more detail than pictures alone can facilitate.The idea is that hosts would be able to scan the apartments and houses creating 360 degree images that could then be viewed either flat (on computer monitors and phone screens) or in VR head-mounted displays. They explain:

Virtual reality gives us an opportunity to reshape where inspiration is drawn from, and take travel planning to the next level. It can also allow people to connect with their destination, host, and co-travelers. Capabilities like 360 photos and 3D scans allow a person to step inside a home or city and understand what to expect and how to orient themselves before they leave the comfort of their own home.

But the company doesn’t stop there. They are also considering ways in which augmented reality could be used to assist travellers in making use of the facilities in the house or apartment. For example, the system could also allow for customers/tenants with AR glasses to see instruction notes overlaid on specific areas of the property or even instructions for specific appliances.

...it can also be stressful when someone doesn’t know how to unlock the door or turn on the hot water for a shower, or when they’re hopelessly lost and everything is in a foreign language.

Augmented reality and related technologies let us recognize surroundings and provide contextual, timely information to navigate these pain points. Just think how welcome, pulling up  directions to the coffee mugs on a mobile device will be first thing in the morning. Or, instant translations on how to work that German thermostat.

However, Airbnb is going further in its ideas of how to enrich the customer experience:

Augmented reality can also breathe life into a space and tell the story behind the personal items to connect a traveler with their host and a new city in richer, more immersive ways.This last idea might seem less practical and more a way of stretching the concept. But it shows that Airbnb are really using their creating imagination to extract maximum value from these emerging technologies.

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