Immersive Technology – The Future of Hospitality?
The possibilities for augmented reality are endless; its application across various industries continues to expand from cannabis to the healthcare industry. One might think that virtual or augmented reality has little to do with industries based in physical reality, such as hotels or restaurants. However, in recent years, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) solutions have emerged as a useful tool for marketing and enhancing customer perception about the physical surrounding in these industries.
While its use in marketing is one such case, there are a number of ways in which AR and VR are making inroads into the travel and hospitality industries. As we’ll see through the course of this article, use cases exist for travelers, guests and back-of-house users in the industry.
Enhanced Visitor/Guest Experience and Remote Room Tours
One of the principle applications of AR involves information access. Information on spaces, features, and interfaces of physical objects can be “pinned” to physical objects. Think of virtual plaques or posted notes that can include links to more information, images and videos, or other online resources.
Visualix is a platform that allows clients and customers to turn physical spaces into AR models. The Germany based start-up, allows potential visitors to see a 360-degree view of a room ahead of time on their home computer, thereby allowing hotels to improve customer experience. While inside hotel rooms, visitors can also obtain additional information on the environment, including instructions on how to operate windows, etc., in the physical environment on their smartphones.
Controlling Smart Devices
Homeowners are increasingly embracing “The Internet of Things”— – connected “smart devices” that can work on their own and also be controlled from central hubs. In addition to being fun and convenient, these devices that know when to turn off or power down save users a lot of money in utilities. Unfortunately, these solutions are often tricky to figure out for people who aren’t familiar with them.
Israel based start-up, Resonai, offers internal navigation and information solutions that can also “pin” menus and controls to smart devices in the user’s physical environment. This allows visitors to control utilities like lights and temperature controls from their mobile phones. Integrating AR with IoT makes hotel stay more enjoyable and convenient for guests and also brings utility costs down for facilities managers.
From the house-perspective, Resonai doesn’t just help visitors, it also helps staff. In addition to operating as an interface for devices and a handy way of organizing information, Resonai can also be used to train facilities workers, such as maintenance crews or housekeeping staff.
Providing Staff Training
On the topic of training, one of the most talked-about use cases in virtual reality right now is on a set of skills called “soft skills.” This is a pretty nebulous concept, but it can be more -or -less summed up as skills that one can’t learn from a book.
Most soft skills deal with working with other people – a skill highly essential in the “hospitality” industry. According to a PwC study, VR is a highly effective tool for preparing people for that task. PwC chose Talespin’sCoPilot program to help enable the VR portion of a peer-reviewed research study comparing soft skill training modalities. PwCs findings were that virtual learners trained 4% faster in soft skills as compared to traditional classroom training. The study also claims that virtually trained candidates were up to 275% more confident to act on what they learned after training—a 40% improvement over classroom and 35% improvement over e-learn.
Another application for AR and VR training comes with temporary staff during seasonal work— a situation faced by many in the hospitality industry. Hardware and software companies in the extended reality (XR) space are working together to create agile solutions specifically for the quick and efficient training and onboarding of seasonal workers. Start-ups, like Gmetri, provide an XR powered online platform for businesses to develop and track training modules, online stores, product showcases, immersive tours, and stories.
Helping Visitors Find Their Way
One of the largest use -cases for augmented reality in just about any industry is navigation— including internal navigation. While XR advocates and futurists talk about “world-scale” AR navigation, incorporating augmented reality or mixed reality, navigation into smaller locations like buildings or campuses is already very achievable.
Naver Labs, a start-up based out of South Korea, provides spatial computing enabled indoor navigation solutions. The company uses visual localization technology that analyses images using the smartphone camera to provide direction for indoor navigation.
Incorporating these solutions can help visitors to easily find their way from the lobby to their room, from the seat to the restroom, or help them learn about specific fixtures in their physical environment.
Another start-up that uses augmented reality and AI to enhance digital customer experience is Pointr. The United Kingdom based company provides AR based indoor navigation solutions that allow guests to search any facility and identify the shortest route here.
Some of the other start-ups that this article has discussed—most notably Resonai— also offer internal navigation services. Other companies, like Microsoft partner Navigine, specializes in providing these services.
The Future of Extended Reality (XR) in Hospitality
Naturally, use cases for AR and VR in the hospitality industry, as well as the companies and start-ups behind them, will only increase over time. With the rollout of 5G Internet, the applications that allow users to interact with these solutions will only become faster and more powerful.
Furthermore, as Artificial Intelligence becomes more developed and more widely available, smart devices and XR applications that provide information or recommend actions to users will become increasingly robust. Advancement in technologies like XR and Artificial Intelligence coupled with cloud integration will witness a wide-scale adoption of XR technologies to provide workplace training.
While hospitality may still be the industry most grounded in physical space and human interaction, it is rapidly moving into the realm of more advanced technological augmentation.