By Dave Schwab
Now you can go on a vacation and never leave the room.
A brand new, out-of-body futuristic travel experience touring Marriott Hotels nationwide stopped in San Diego Oct. 24 – 27 at the Marriott Marquis and Marina in Downtown San Diego.
Marriott Hotels has partnered with Academy Award-winning creative studio Framestore to create Marriott Hotel’s virtual travel experiences.
During the virtual “adventure,” guests wearing an Oculus Rift DK2 headset are totally immersed in 4-D virtual reality giving them a 90-second “vacation” disembarking to London and Hawaii via a “Star Trek”-like transporter known as a “teleporter.”
The Teleporter seamlessly blends live-action 360-degree video with “photoreal” computer-generated imagery (CGI). It was created by Relevent, an experimental marketing agency, and Framestore — the studio responsible for the “photoreal” CGI in the recent film “Gravity.”
Travel enthusiasts can actually see, hear and feel what it’s like to be in far-flung destinations.
The Teleporter is just one component of the hotel chain’s Travel Brilliantly campaign, which is striving to rebrand Marriott as “something a little more hip and high tech” — something more than your average business hotel.
“We’re pioneering what travel is going to mean in the future and how technology can enhance the experience,” said Michael Dail, vice president of brand marketing for Marriott Hotels. “Marriott is not that traditional company you once thought of.”
On Oct. 26 in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis, guests lined up for the opportunity to be teleported halfway across the planet.
“What this is, is 4-D emergent technology,” said Stephanie Tiredo, a virtual “stewardess” with the Teleporter’s staffing company.
While strapping a headset on each virtual vacationer, Tiredo explained, “It’s basically a sensory deprivation pod that we put you in with the goggles mixing sound and visual effects, really giving you an exceptional sensory experience.”
The brief but intense virtual “journey” begins with the goggle-wearing vacationer listening intently to the stewardess’s voice through the headset.
“When you get to your location, look up and down, left and right, turn around — it’s 360 degrees,” Tiredo said.
Gazing through the goggles, the virtual vacationers find themselves completely alone in a computer-generated version of the Marriott lobby bar surrounded by tables and a fireplace. The guests begin experiencing a sense of physically moving forward through the room as if standing on an invisible conveyor belt.
“Check out where you came from,” instructs the headset voice. “Look up at the ceiling. Down at the floor.”
The guests see a circled map of the Hawaiian islands and are immediately transported there to find themselves standing on an island seeing ocean waves, hearing them crash on the shore, feeling — almost believing — they’re actually there.
Suddenly, the guests are exiting to another virtual map with London, England circled. They experience being suspended, as if in a helicopter, above the city at night.
“If you look at the left-hand corner, you’ll see Big Ben down there,” intones the headset voice.
The virtual vacation then shifts back to the Marriott hotel lobby bar where the guests find a cocktail waiting for them. The experience is so real, it’s hard for them not to reach out and grab a chair to pull it away and sit down.
“Awesome and welcome back,” concludes the virtual stewardess asking, “How was your trip?”
The virtual “trip” — the whole minute and a half of it — is over. But the experience isn’t.
Unbeknownst to them, a video has been made of the guests’ virtual experience. Tiredo shows them a clip documenting their reactions to their virtual vacation. She tells them they can email it to themselves as a permanent visual and audial record of their experience.
“Is everybody going to have one of these in their homes someday?” asked one virtual guest.
“You can get it for home use right now,” Tiredo said.
The Teleporter is just one interactive “innovative idea” being shared by guests with the Marriott through its “Travel Brilliantly” contest. Contestants share their innovative ideas with the hotel chain, submitting written descriptions (up to 500 characters) of an idea answering a specific question posed during each entry period.
To enter Marriott’s “Travel Brilliantly” contest, visit travelbrilliantly.com. You must be a legal U.S. resident, a citizen of Canada (excluding Quebec) or the United Kingdom and be at least 18 years of age.
—Dave Schwab came to San Diego 30 years ago with a journalism degree from Michigan State University and has worked and freelanced for numerous dailies, weeklies and other regional publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org