Have you ever wanted to explore the sandy beaches of Hawaii, or see London from the top of a skyscraper, without spending a penny? The reality is closer than you think. In one of the first premium virtual reality applications outside of the gaming and entertainment industry, Marriott Hotels recently launched its innovative #GetTeleported virtual travel experience, which enables users to feel the sand between their toes on Wai'anapanapa Beach in Maui, or enjoy a panoramic view of London from the vertigo inducing Tower 42.
This is PR at its best.
The hotel chain partnered with experiential marketing agency Relevant and Oscar-winning VFX studio Framestore to create the ‘Teleporter’, which features Oculus Rift DK2 virtual reality headsets, wireless headphones and a suite of 4-D sensory elements, to augment the brand experience and amplify the feeling of immersion.
Under floor pumps create the cushioned feeling of sand under your feet; misting nozzles spray users with ‘ocean mist’, and heat fans radiate an 80-degree heat, which users experience as the warmth of the sun against their skin.
The Teleporter takes the concept of destination sampling to a new level and it has generated a huge amount of attention on social media, with its #GetTeleported hashtag. The stunt has boosted its Facebook followers to 1.5 million and Twitter fans to 141,000.
The virtual travel experience is the latest in a series of initiatives under Marriott’s ‘Travel Brilliantly’ campaign, to draw in a new generation of young travelers (the so-called Millennials), by re-positioning itself as modern and tech-savvy. Marriott used their social media pages to invite guests, travel enthusiasts and influencers to submit their ideas about the future state of travel and how the Marriott brand can make travel ‘more brilliant’ for its users.
The campaign led to a series of tangible innovations including; a mobile check-in and checkout service; a mobile app which is used for communication between hotel guests and staff, and the installation of portable charger-cubes, to charge a range of digital devices.
Marriott also partnered with students at the MIT Mobile Experience Lab, to create ‘Six Degrees’ – a unique social network designed for the hotel lobby. Through Six Degrees, guests can discover how they are connected to one another and socialize at events, organized by the hotel.
The possibilities for Ocular Rift technology are limitless. As the technology becomes more affordable and advanced, it may well become an integral part of the digital marketing mix. There are likely to be virtual reality social networks – huge online social platforms that will allow retailers to have a presence.