Virtual reality was once viewed sceptically – an idea pulled straight out of science fiction that had no real practical application in the world. This was back in the 1990s, when VR headsets were the size and weight of small television sets and the only graphics they could muster were vague polygonal shapes.
Today, VR is mainstream and can be accessed by anyone with a smartphone and a pair of affordable VR goggles. The graphics have also come a very long way, with many people now experiencing something in VR that’s almost indistinguishable from experiencing it in reality.
But could this lead to an eventual future where virtual tourism overtakes physical tourism entirely and what will that mean for institutions such as museums, which have always relied on footfall to keep their doors open?
Here, we’ll explore the benefits of virtual tourism but also why there’s always going to be room for a physical experience.
Model behaviour – The facet of VR that obviously fascinates us most is the field of 3D rendered VR models, which we believe will become industry standard in the vast majority of hospitality sectors in coming years.
Major hotel chains and property listing websites already offer the chance to explore their surroundings virtually and for buildings and vessels that have yet to be built, 3D rendering technology potentially allows customers to explore a physical space before the initial planning work is even completed. This allows for a more in-depth process where clients can be 100% sure of a design before committing to their final build.
The planning stage – When you’re planning a holiday, it always helps to get an idea of where you’re going so you know how to best make use of your time.
By using VR, tourists can explore the sights before even stepping foot on the plane and make more informed decisions about how to spend their time.
Moreover, there are some airlines that allow customers to take a virtual tour of the plane beforehand, so nothing is left up to chance!
It’s educational – One of the first sectors to fully embrace VR was the educational sector, with museums across the globe eager to find fresh ways of enticing younger visitors. The Louvre, for example, launched a bespoke VR experience in 2019 called “Mona Lisa Beyond the Glass” that offered a literal look behind the glass surrounding the famous painting.
Meanwhile, The Tate Modern has created VR experiences that quite literally take their visitors inside the paintings. It’s all about using VR as a supplemental experience. Not replacing the physical act of tourism, but enhancing it.
But it’s not real
There is certainly a place for VR and 3D rendering in the world. Indeed, when it comes to architectural modelling it has essentially revolutionised the industry. However, there will always be a room for physical models and physical experiences.
The future is not going to be virtual or physical – it’s going to be both, working together, accentuating one another and creating experiences and opportunities we would have never dreamed possible even a few short decades ago. Whichever way you spin it though, the future is certainly looking exciting!