How Virtual Travel Could Help With Overtourism

The idea of travel without consequence, restriction or even leaving the confines of one’s own home has been both the defining arc for many a sci-fi tale, and also the basis for the burgeoning field of live virtual travel (one estimate by research firm MarketandMarkets puts the virtual reality market at $44.7 billion USD by 2024).

Although simulations have previously appeared in hotel and airline walk throughs, increasing sophistication in gaming and other related areas have brought us ever more realistic versions of actual tourist destinations, such as Everest, Alcatraz and even outer space. Now, the ability to livestream travel experiences in real time via drone, satellite and other technology is coming, and it could have unexpected effects on a travel industry that is currently experiencing its own disruption.

These advances may usher in the rise of a new form of travel — one that separates the physical element from the experience, much like the trend already occurring in the food sphere. As the “eyes eat first” ethos pervades the virtual world of instagrammable plates and aspirational (or otherwise) food television and youtube influencers, the disconnect between the dining room and the diner is simultaneously shrunk and widened immeasurably.

In some cases, this separation may be a good thing — especially when it comes to illustrious destinations such as Venice that are literally sinking under the weight of unsustainable levels of tourism and the resulting environmental impact. Although these cities — ill equipped to deal with the hoards of tourists depleting resources and not always spending at local businesses— are trying to limit the effects by restricting visitors to certain areas, only time will tell as to whether it will be successful. In these situations, would a virtual tour (especially to those merely interested in checking a box off of a travel to do list) be a complete loss?

Another element to consider is that a virtual experience would allow those (fool)hardy souls viewing a world heritage site as a backdrop for an elaborate (and in some cases, downright lethal) selfie to do so without risking themselves or others.

One could argue that this fake it until you make it mindset when it comes to travel self portraits is already pervasive, whether using DIY materials such as toilet seats and coffee mugs to approximate airplane windows, or professional backdrops emulating luxury plane seats and other situations.

At the heart of the matter of virtual travel lies the question of how these technologies are redefining our ideas of travel: i.e. how much of our enjoyment and understanding of a place derives from the tactility of being in the location itself. After all, aspirational media extolling the virtues of unique destinations has been a part of culture since humans could record what they saw in a transmittable form, whether by cave painting, parchment or cellphone.

There’s certainly a debate to be had about whether it is a trifle elitist to restrict the experience of travel to those who have the means to do so. And although the terroir and soul of a place that may be hard to convey via pixels, we’re seeing the travel industry seek to reduce its carbon footprint and question sustainability in tourism practices.

Perhaps, as technology develops and destinations seek to contain the impact of the madding crowds, the clearest thing that virtual travel will show us is that travel can leave a mark on the destination as well as the visitor.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I’m a Toronto-based freelance writer who has spent the last 18 years traveling the globe as a magazine editor, and a lifetime consuming and exploring the world’s most interesting plates. A former editorial director of several national trade magazines on food, restaurants and fashion, I’ve covered luxury global trends and local flavors — and the chefs, artisans and tastemakers that drive them — across Asia, the Americas and Europe. Whether foraging with herb witches in Germany or hunting for the perfect small batch bourbon, I’m always seeking out new experiences in restaurants, wines and spirits and travel. I’ve also put my Masters degree in Communications to use by teaching magazine journalism and creative writing to the next generation of explorers. I tweet at @leslie_wu

Source: How Virtual Travel Could Help With Overtourism

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Virtual Reality apps for Travel are becoming more realistic, as VR hardware and software gets more advanced. If you like the idea of travel and exploration, but would rather do it from the comfort of your own home these five apps might offer you the perfect weekend getaway. » Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC video: NBC News is a leading source of global news and information. Here you will find clips from NBC Nightly News, Meet The Press, and original digital videos. Subscribe to our channel for news stories, technology, politics, health, entertainment, science, business, and exclusive NBC investigations. Connect with NBC News Online! Visit NBCNews.Com: Find NBC News on Facebook: Follow NBC News on Twitter: Follow NBC News on Google+: Follow NBC News on Instagram: Follow NBC News on Pinterest: These Virtual Reality Apps Let You Travel The World Without Ever Leaving Home | Mach | NBC News

VR is helping teach people how to fire their employees


Poor Barry Thompson is about to get fired, and you’re the unfortunate one shouldered with lowering the ax. You might not feel sorry for Barry given he’s virtual. But the idea is that firing him in VR will help prepare you if you ever need to terminate someone who isn’t made of pixels.

Barry is the creation of Talespin Studios, a VR company that develops virtual- and augmented-reality training programs for Fortune 500 partners including Farmers Insurance and telecom and finance companies. The company introduced Barry to demonstrate its “Virtual Human Technology.”What it looks like to fire an employee in VR

“The premise behind the software is giving employees a safe space to practice challenging interpersonal situations, while using AI to create emotionally realistic characters to stimulate and challenge them,” says Kyle Jackson, CEO and co-founder of Talespin.

The company, which is based in Southern California and The Netherlands, built Barry using speech recognition, AI, natural language processing, gamified scoring, dynamic feedback and enterprise learning management system, or LMS, integration. He can fluidly converse with the real person wearing the VR headset, display realistic emotion and understand context.

The highly realistic-looking Mr. Thompson has gray hair and bags under his eyes and looks like he’s probably put a whole lot of years into the company. His reaction to the bad news varies depending on how you handle the situation. In some scenarios, he gets angry and yells, in others he cries. If you handle his firing well, he calmly accepts the news..

“Users that elicit the more dramatic or emotional responses from Barry can learn from the experience and try to do better next time,” Jackson says.

Talespin virtual humans give trainees the chance to practice other challenging interpersonal situations with colleagues and co-workers, such as giving managerial feedback, negotiating and making a sale.

In one sales scenario, for example, the CEO of a company you’re trying to sell your firm’s services to has her arms crossed, looks away as you explain why you’re there, and says you won’t get the full time requested for the meeting. You have to rely on your training to overcome her disinterest and unlock different parts of the conversation where you can be successful.

VR is already teaching people to deliver babiesoperate machinery and how to weld. As our sister site TechRepublic suggests, VR could be the future of sexual harassment training in the workplace since it’s more immersive than HR-based classes or slideshow and video presentations and lets users feel what’s it like to be harassed.

“The immersive properties and rich, consistent contextual cues associated with VR improve the quality and speed of initial learning,” according to Training Industry. “One strength of VR is that it can be implemented in such a way as to target [both] the behavioral skills system and the cognitive skills system.”

Talespin isn’t the only company creating VR training content for workers. Thousands of Walmart employees have donned Oculus Go virtual reality headsets for a training program created by Strivr, which also counts Verizon, Fidelity and United Rentals among its customers.

“When you watch a module through the headset, your brain feels like you actually experienced a situation,” Andy Trainor, Walmart’s senior director of Walmart US Academies, said when announcing the program last year.

Or, as Talespin’s Jackson puts it, “Virtual humans can help us become better humans.”

Now, can someone please hook Barry up with a new job?





5 Lessons On Virtual Reality In eLearning

5 Lessons On Virtual Reality In eLearning

Virtual Reality In eLearning: Why One Size Does Not Fit All

Over the last few years we have been creating Virtual Reality in eLearning. This work has yielded some valuable lessons that I’d like to share in the hope that it will make you an eLearning hero rather than the herder of white elephants.

Lesson 1: Virtual Reality Is Brilliant… When The Planets Align

Firstly I’d like to say that given the right learning scenario and receptive learner, VR eLearning is shockingly effective. This platform for presenting information will fill a gap in the learning spectrum for users who would benefit more from experiencing situations and surroundings.

Kinaesthetic learning scenarios, where the learning is concerned with physically carrying out a task, can be replicated and practiced ideally in Virtual Reality. Furthermore, scenarios where the surrounding environment is a crucial part of the learning experience are ideally suited for VR. For instance, VR can give new hires experience of an international company’s locations without the need to fly all over the world or map fire escape routes as part of fire safety training.

The Virtual Reality experience itself is something that no user should forget, the uniqueness and salience of the experience will stand out in the mind of the learner and aid recall. This effect will recede as Virtual Reality becomes more mainstream so my advice would be to make your first VR eLearning course soon for maximum effect.

Lesson 2: Apply Virtual Reality Sparingly

Despite some vendors claiming VR to be the panacea for all learning, the truth is that very few learning courses have sufficient kinaesthetic learning needs to suit Virtual Reality. Most learning remains predominantly knowledge-based; people need to learn “what” more than “how” in the world of eLearning. Our experience suggests that only 5% of all learning should go down the Virtual Reality route.

Lesson 3: Don’t Go To The Party Without The Right Kit

The good news is that the Virtual Reality kit can be inexpensive – really inexpensive. A headset can be purchased for £5 from Amazon, attach it to your Smartphone and start learning. The quality of the experience is minimally limited by the equipment – it is essentially just a set of lenses in a mask, just make sure it fits the face and does not let in any ambient light.

The main limitations of the experience are caused by bandwidth and Smartphone/VR system. Generally if you are using a Smartphone to run the Virtual Reality, if it has been made in the last three years then it will be adequate. The more recent phones (Google’s Pixel, LG 6 etc.) give even better refresh rates and visual acuity which makes using the phone a more “real-life” experience and will increase the length of time they can be used in one session. Generally newer phones can be used comfortably for up to 45 minutes, training for older phones should last for no longer than 25 minutes. Specialist VR systems such as Oculus Prime and Playstation are considerably more expensive but will give a better overall experience – at the moment we would not advise going down this route since it greatly restricts the rollout of the system with relatively little gain.

Although the headsets are cheap and Smartphones are commonplace, not every audience will have the right equipment – even if headsets are distributed. Take this into consideration during any rollout, that you may need an alternative distribution platform for the learning.

Lesson 4: Virtual Reality Is eLearning Marmite

Any readers unfamiliar with the UK’s obsession with Marmite should know that Marmite is a spread made out of yeast extract (yes, I don’t know what that is either) that you apply to toast. The taste experience is greatly loved or hated in equal measure; there is no middle ground. Virtual Reality is the same.

90% of users will love the VR experience, it is met with a childlike sense of awe. There is no learning curve, users immediately know how to get around the environment and learn from the experience.

10% of users will absolutely hate the experience, they will tear off the goggles within 10 seconds of putting them. Such users find the experience disconcerting and no matter how much encouragement you can give, they will refuse to even look at the training again.

If your training needs to train all the target population – you must not put all your eggs in the Virtual Reality basket.

Lesson 5: The Take-Away From Virtual Reality

If there is one thing I’d like you to learn from our experience it’s that Virtual Reality – if suitable for the project in hand – should not be the only solution. VR needs a back up delivery method because:

  • Not every learning scenario suits Virtual Reality.
  • It will be difficult to ensure a suitable Smartphone/VR headset is available for all.
  • 10% of your population will refuse to use Virtual Reality.

The best solution is to make sure your VR project can export into other formats. One solution is to use Jackdaw Cloud to export the same VR project at the touch of a button to run on a PC or App without needing VR glasses. It creates great looking Virtual Reality, but comes with a built in backup plan.

So good luck with your first VR project; when done well, it is a great learning medium that will turn you into an eLearning hero. Just don’t forget those who cannot or will not use Virtual Reality, don’t say I have not warned you!

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