Airbnb May Use Virtual Reality for Previews and Trips

Dec 11, 2017

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You may not have to rely on staged photos and flattering angles to pick out your next vacation home in the near future. On December 11, Airbnb announced that it is exploring using virtual-reality headsets and smartphones to let you explore rentals before ever setting foot in them.

“Capabilities like 360 photos and 3D scans allow a person to step inside a home or city and understand what to expect and how to orient themselves before they leave the comfort of their own home,” the San Francisco-based company said in a press release. “Looking far into the future, virtual reality could allow guests to share more than a spreadsheet or email chain when planning travel together. Instead, they could share a virtual world together, perusing and touring destinations and home options while interacting in a more natural manner.”

The company’s also looking to incorporate services that would provide real-time information to travelers in augmented-reality displays that would perhaps overlay computer-generated data over real-world environments.

“Just think how welcome, pulling up  directions to the coffee mugs on a mobile device will be first thing in the morning,” the company said. “Or, instant translations on how to work that German thermostat.”

Airbnb offered no concrete rollout dates or promises of specific services, saying only that “we’re excited about continuing our work to test use cases, prototype and hack.” The company made clear it wasn’t promising that anything would come of its experiments at all: “We want to make sure anything we introduce really brings value.”

VR has been something of a buzzword this year, with more and more media companies offering movies optimized for VR headsets and VR still a draw in the gaming industry. Still, the hefty price for headsets (the granddaddy of the bunch, the Oculus Rift, only dropped from $599 to $399 this past October), meaning potential Airbnb’s VR services would only be practical for a relatively small number of its users, at least at first.

Feature photo by recep-bg / Getty Images

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