You’ve probably been seeing a lot of virtual reality headlines in the last two years. What you may not realize however is just how far virtual reality reach is extending beyond video games. Its true that games remain arguably the main use for VR, but dozens if not hundreds of other interesting uses have emerged. And among them is a new means of traveling the world.
Putting it simply, virtual reality can provide you with a convincing, sensory experience that makes you feel as if you are in a foreign land, or at some noteworthy landmark, or even inside a museum across the world. Naturally, you’ll know, when using these programs, that you haven’t actually traveled anywhere. But that knowledge can be a little less concrete or distracting than you might think. Virtual reality truly does trick the mind, essentially causing the eyes to lie to the brain to make you believe an illusion. And when it is done well, this can create a very convincing travel experience.
It is pretty cool when you think about it, but it may also have its drawbacks. So we thought we would take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of this technology, and what looks to be a slowly emerging trend.
Exposure To The World – The clearest benefit of having the option to travel in VR is that it can expose people to the world in a fairly profound way. It’s one thing to look through the endless wanderlust blogs and sift through gorgeous pictures of places abroad; it’s quite another to actually get to explore them (in some cases even via flying) through VR. Most of us don’t have the opportunity to travel quite as much as we might like to, and VR can at least provide a partial experience just about anywhere on Earth.
Trip Planning – There has been some talk lately about more travel vendors using VR as the ultimate travel brochure. Basically, instead of reading reviews or looking at pictures of transportation options, neighborhoods, accommodations, etc., you can have the opportunity to explore them first hand as you go about planning a trip. And some believe that in the near future, you’ll even be able to meld this experience with the actual booking process. Theoretically you could walk onto a plane in VR, select your seat (with a purchase option), then move to your destination, make a booking in a restaurant that looks nice, book a specific hotel room, etc. This all sounds wildly convenient, and actually quite fun.
Exposure To Fake Worlds – This is a less serious notion, but it’s worth thinking about how VR has improved the idea of visiting designed worlds via gaming. Already we’ve started to see small 3D worlds animated for the simplest of games, and some of these games are starting to trickle into VR, such that all a very basic concept needs to succeed is an environment. It´s a simple thought, but one that’s proving to be true, as the most immersive, detailed VR worlds typically make for the best games. Now, imagine that same level of immersion in apps that are purely for exploration. VR could take us to distant planets, planets from sci-fi films, legendary, lost locations on Earth, and more. It’s fictionalized travel, but it does still sound oddly soothing and interesting.
Incomplete Experience – Needless to say, traveling in VR isn’t quite the same experience as the real thing. It’s wonderful that this technology can allow people to see places they wouldn’t otherwise see. But the drawback is that VR can turn the idea of travel into an almost purely visual experience, eschewing culture, cuisine, and all of the other things that make a real trip so special.
Less Social – This ties in with the con just mentioned in that you won’t have any real interaction with locals in a destination when simulating a travel experience in VR. However, it also applies to the idea of travel buddies. While you and a friend can theoretically enjoy the same travel experience in VR, it’s not quite the same as actually going on a journey with someone. Sometimes the bonding that takes place during an experience like this is the best part of all.
Spoilers – Travel planning in VR sounds very convenient, and even sort of fun, as mentioned above. However, there is also the possibility that it makes the eventual real life trip a little less special. Visiting a new destination is supposed to bring about a lot of first-time experiences, and we imagine that reaching a destination you have already explored in VR will feel a little bit like returning to a dream. At least to some extent, virtual reality might spoil the real thing in some cases.