The means, scope and very essence of traveling have been constantly evolving through the centuries, shifting paradigms, uncovering or even creating new destinations and shaping the lives of visitors and locals alike. If there is one thing that has revolutionized the way we travel in the past decades, it’s the emergence of cutting-edge technology, like the recent wonders of augmented reality and virtual reality. Once in the realm of sci-fi imagination, VR and AR have lately found their way into everyday applications within healthcare, retail businesses, entertainment and—most intriguingly—the travel industry. The new technology allows users to visit the most remote and exotic destinations without ever leaving the comfort of their armchair, time-travel beyond the confines of museums and bring outdoor monuments to life. But let’s start from the beginning.
VR & AR Tech Explained
Virtual Reality or VR is a digital simulation of an environment that is experienced through the senses—vision, hearing, touch and even smell. It usually requires the use of a head-mounted display, gloves and headsets, and transfers the user to an artificial world that looks all but fake. Augmented reality or AR is pretty much the other side of the same coin—it’s a mix of the real world and artificial elements, as it superimposes an additional layer on real-world view through the eyes of a camera lens.
So, how are they used in travel and why shouldn’t you miss out on the chance to take an augmented reality tour next time you’re traveling? Read on for a few examples of unique AR and VR experiences, featuring some of our favorite destinations in the Caribbean.
Bringing Mexico’s Tulum Ruins to Life With AR
Tulum’s magnificent ruins are one of the most popular archaeological sites in Mexico. Apart from the ruins’ impressive location that offers astonishing views upon the Caribbean sea, more than one million tourists visit Tulum annually to learn about Mayan history, culture and architecture. However, like many other archeological sites, Tulum’s ruins aren’t what they used to be. Some of the buildings have been gradually damaged by humidity, resulting in a decrease in the number of visitors allowed to visit the site per day. The murals that used to decorate the walls are now barely visible and guests are kept at a distance from the monuments at all times, making it difficult to get a feel of what the monuments originally looked like. Luckily, the design of a new AR app aspires to change all that. The content company aims to revive the former glory of the Mayan ruins via 3D model replications of some of the most important buildings—the Castle, the Halach Uinic house, the temple of Paintings and the Temple of the Descending God. Through the interactive app, travelers also have the chance to follow the ruins’ restoration process, observe the initial construction process and witness the true beauty of the murals.
The “Portal to Paradise” Marriott App
Appropriately named “Portal to Paradise’’, the new Marriott Caribbean & Latin America Resorts AR app wondrously transports travelers to some of the most breathtaking destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico. Whether you’re looking to take your trip planning to the next level or just need an excuse to daydream about your next tropical holidays, the innovative app is what you’ve been looking for. Launched on June 19 2018, Portal to Paradise is the best way to take a peek into destinations you’re considering visiting and explore the luxurious resorts that await you. All you have to do is use your iPhone. The app features 360-degree views of eight resorts in breathtaking destinations and offers six different scenes for each one of them. You can choose to take a glimpse of the sandy beaches, rooms, spas, restaurant or the resorts’ pools.
AR at Haiti’s Citadelle Laferrière
Haiti is one of the latest destinations to get onto the augmented-reality train. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Tourism and the government of Haiti signed an agreement regarding the development of an AR program that aims at providing virtual tours of the country’s most popular destinations in scope of maximizing their tourism potential. Providing users with educational information on culture, architecture and history through 3D tours in several languages, the project will begin at the famous Citadelle Henri Cristophe before moving on to other heritage sites. The authorities expect the innovative technology to attract more visitors by bringing Haiti to the forefront of the region’s touristic activity.
Grenada’s Creative AR Campaign
In collaboration with Aurasma, Plus Two and British Airways, Grenada created the first augmented-reality tourism campaign a few years back. With the intent of attracting more young visitors from the UK, the campaign referred to discount flights promoted through an ingenious AR video advert on Stylist magazine. The app made the shore on the ad come to life on the readers’ phones, with waves splashing on a beautiful beach, while it also included food guides and accommodation suggestions. The result was immense media interest and exceeding the original goals.
A Glimpse Into the Future of CocoCay, Bahamas Through Royal Caribbean’s AR & VR Apps
Customers of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships were really excited earlier this year to be the first to explore all the new features and facilities of CocoCay, a private island in The Bahamas that’s going to be one of the most fascinating cruise destinations in the near future. Among those were a 135-foot water-slide called “Daredevil’s Peak’’, a wave pool, a 50-feet high zipline, a helium balloon ride called “Up, up and away’’, a water park and several pools, bars and cabanas. However, travelers will have to wait a little bit before enjoying any of those—as they don’t quite exist just yet. The launch event was part of a multi-million dollar campaign that aims to completely transform the island during the upcoming years. Guests got a glimpse of CocoCay through a combination of VR and AR experiences, all set up in a New York City building.
Go for VR Shark Diving With Ascape
Ascape is an innovative virtual reality travelogue app that offers users awesome travel content in the form of magnificent digital tours, maps and 360-degree videos. The developers pride themselves in hand-picking all of their virtual tours to ensure that every experience is extraordinary. Between diving with sharks in the Caribbean, wakeboarding in New Zealand and strolling through Havana, Cuba, Ascape is sure to turn your most uneventful evenings into exciting adventures.
Bringing Bahamas’ Monuments to Life With ALIV Discover Maps
The history and culture of The Bahamas come to life with the ALIV Discover Maps app. Visitors can explore the country’s most popular cultural and heritage sites in augmented reality while at the same time a short description with all the necessary information about the site’s history appears at the bottom of their mobile phone.
Visiting Pinel Island, St. Maarten & St. Barts With Google Cardboard
Google Cardboard is Google’s very own simple and affordable way to immerse in a virtual reality experience. As the name suggests, it’s actual cardboard in which you can insert your phone to turn it into a VR viewer with the help of a special app. After purchasing one—or building one yourself—make sure to download the Caribbean VR app that will take you to the exotic waters of Pinel Island, St. Maarten and St. Barts. The 360-degree images of sandy beaches, turquoise waters and coral reefs will make you think you’re there.