Virtual reality video comes to hotels – and you
Have you ever read reviews of hotels to find a great place, then end up feeling disappointed once you got there? Maybe the pictures were old, or only showed the one room that was decent. The opposite might be true too, when you come across a hotel that is even better than you could have imagined from the pictures.
The travel industry knows this happens too. And according to some, virtual reality (VR) might be the solution. Booking.com says that in 2016, more companies and tour operators will start using VR. This will give travel seekers a much better sense of the location they are considering for a vacation or business trip.
Why this is happening now
Last year saw a lot of hype about virtual reality (you can read about in my blog here). This year we’ll see an increase in sales for the hardware to view VR, some of which came on the market in late 2015. There are several options with a variety of pricing.
But the one major reason VR may take off is because of Google Cardboard. You can read about it in the other blog I mentioned, but to summarise here: it makes VR available to everyone for under $25 (~£17).
What it actually does is allow anyone to view 360 degree videos like you are actually standing in the room, hallway, or on the beach. Purists argue it isn’t truly VR, but most of us aren’t going to care that much. We’ll enjoy the opportunity to look around a hotel from a first person perspective and see what is actually there in a way still photos can’t.
Jumping on the trend
The hotel industry is highly competitive. By making VR or 360 degree videos available they can help their hotel or resort stand out. People will be more likely to book a hotel they’ve seen in 360 view than one with just photos. It just feels like you know more about it when you’ve “looked around” yourself!
And though these types of videos are relatively new, they are relatively easy to make. They do require special equipment that isn’t necessarily cheap. A 360 degree GoPro camera arrangement will run you around £10,000. Or you can buy a 360 mount from 360Heros for around £1,000. The mounts will require you already own a supported model of a GoPro camera.
Those aren’t your only options though. If you look around, you can find a 360 camera lens for an iPhone for just a few pounds. These promise 360 video that’s fully immersive and many of the reviews are positive. You can also find a variety of options in between these two.
Whether you use the high-end, low-end, or in-between equipment to create your video, you need to make sure people can actually view it.
YouTube has a dedicated 360 video channel. It’s also made these videos available (for the most part) to users of Google Cardboard for a more VR experience.
You can put your hotel VR experience on YouTube, but you’ll be giving up some control when you do. But if you want to embed the video directly into your site, you’ll need a player that supports 360 video (or VR video depending how you look at it).
JW Player, probably the most popular player on the web has added support by partnering with a company that specialises in that sort of video. According to their website they only support Flash-VR video, but they are working on adding support for HTML5 and other mobile platforms. By using a player like JW, you can keep control over the look and feel of the video, plus ensure your future hotel visitors (or family and friends if you do this for fun) have the best experience.
There are also many other players adding support for 360 video so you should be able to find one that works for you.
Because the videos have so much more information than traditional video, they require more bandwidth to stream. When you host the videos yourself with a service like PlanetStream, you have some control over that aspect at least, though the viewer will need a decent Internet connection too.
Virtual reality video experiences are likely to grow in 2016. Whether they are the big “radical” trend in the hotel business some people predict is something we’ll have to wait and see about. Do you think it’s something you’ll use this year? Please share with us in the comments.