In the classic film Total Recall from 1990, the main character portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger takes a virtual vacation to Mars. Along the way, he becomes a spy, saves the rebels, and lives happily ever after. The film is quite vague. You don’t know for sure whether the memory machine went haywire, and these things really happened. It’s possible that everything was only an implanted memory.
Thirty years later, this type of technology is closer than you might imagine. Thanks to virtual reality headsets, it’s now possible to travel the world without ever opening your front door.
Of course, the experiences aren’t as realistic as Total Recall just yet. Nor can it substitute for a real trip to the Galapagos Islands or the Great Wall of China. But it’s an exciting technology that you might want to try out for yourself.
A solution to a real problem
Even before COVID-19 placed 90% of the world under a travel restriction and stay at home orders, VR travel had already become quite popular. It was a favorite tool for travel agents, airlines, hotels, and others in the industry to market a destination to would-be travelers.
Before the pandemic, global travel had reached record highs. And it had a negative impact on the earth. Overtourism is a real problem. In the world’s most popular destinations like Venice, tourists outnumber locals 12-1 during peak season. And it also causes issues in remote spots that can’t handle such a severe population swells and the pollution that comes with them.
No one knows what the aftermath of COVID-19 will look like. But VR tech certainly unlocks exciting new travel experiences.
More than a cheap trick
When you think of virtual reality, you might equate it to video games. There are some shared qualities between the two technologies. But you should think of them as parallel but not the same. A video game revolves around completing a task, whereas VR is about a visual experience.
VR comes in many different forms. Some devices are as simple as Google Cardboard. It transforms your phone into a simple VR device. Although it isn’t as impressive, it’s affordable and easy to pair with VR apps.
You can also pick up a device like the Facebook Oculus or Sony PlayStation. The latter costs around $400 and offers immersive VR experience and games.
Don’t forget that any of these options are cheaper than the airfare to go somewhere—let alone the cost of hotel rooms, food, and all the other expenses.
Of course, traveling to Japan using VR is nowhere near the same as actually going there. You get the sights and sounds, but you miss out on smell, touch, taste, and other tangibles.
Likewise, most experiences are only a few minutes long. Many people also report discomfort if they wear VR devices for more than 30 minutes. But VR is still improving and heading into new directions.
Developers have already been working on full-body suits. They would create enhanced sensory experience, respond to touch, and more. Within a few short years, the technology will grow to address many of the limitations it faces today.
Virtual travel: how to get started
The bottom line is that you should manage your expectations when it comes to virtual travel. Nothing will replace a real trip somewhere. But it’s still impressive what you can do now with minimal investment.
You don’t even need any VR equipment to check out some fantastic experiences. If you have a UHD TV, you can preview virtual tours to see if VR is a good fit for you before you invest in any gear.
To make your experience even more authentic, be sure to get a virtual private network (VPN) too. What is a VPN? A VPN is a virtual private network. With a VPN, you can change your IP address to access the web content of any other region (you can find out more here). Using a VPN can give a taste of a foreign language or culture, and it has many other unrelated advantages.
To get started with virtual travel, check out these 3D virtual tours of World Heritage Sites that Google is offering. The Sphinx, Taj Mahal, and Stonehenge are a few of the fantastic places you can set out too. Or you can zoom out on the earth and get a view from space!
Virtual travel experience is the best way to travel to Chile, relax on the beach in Greece, and explore the world—from right inside your home. Wherever you want to go, virtual travel can take you there.