Much of 2014 has been spent talking about the possibilities of virtual reality (VR) tourism. Sony Computer Entertainment’s (SCE) Shuhei Yoshida has expressed particular interest in the concept since the reveal of the Project Morpheus head-mounted display (HMD) for PlayStation 4. UK-based travel company Thomas Cook Group is the first to actually act upon this potential though, revealing a new initiative that will allow customers to experience certain holiday destinations in VR before booking holidays using Samsung’s Gear VR HMD.
The concept was first put to test at Thomas Cook Group’s store at the Bluewater shopping centre in the UK in August 2014 using the Oculus Rift HMD’s first development kit (DK1). Users experience 360 degree footage that has been shot and produced by VR agency Visualise. Its successful testing means that the initiative will soon roll out to stores across the UK, Germany and Belgium, offering the chance to ‘look before you book’. Videos include a helicopter tour of Manhattan, a look at the pool at the SENTIDO resort in Rhodes and a taste of a restaurant at the SunConnect resort in Cyprus. A video showing the Manhatten filming can be seen below.
“Thomas Cook has a long history of innovation, continually exploring ways to offer unique experiences to the customer,” Thomas Cook Group Chief Innovation Officer Marco Ryan said. “Virtual reality technologies are set to play a key role in how companies showcase experience-based products to their customers, and we are proud to be ahead of the curve when it comes to being the digital leaders in travel. Our use of VR is set to further enhance the in-store shopping experience for Thomas Cook customers, allowing them to make informed decisions regarding their next holiday using innovative technology that effectively lets them try before they buy.”
The VR experience will be on display at three stores in the UK, one being the Bluewater store and the other two undecided. In Germany it can be found at the Werrepark Bad Oeynhausen Shopping Centre, Goethe-Galerie Jena Shopping Centre and Roland-Centre Bremen Shopping Centre. Belgium locations include Neckermann Wijnegem, Shopping Centre, Neckermann Woluwe Shopping Centre, Neckermann Leuven, Neckermann Charleroi. VRFocus will continue to follow any and all applications of VR, reporting back with the latest updates.