THE RISE OF THE MACHINES: 3 TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY TRENDS TO WATCH

2 -min. read

From smart luggage and robotic hotels to Uber user interfaces (UI), over the last few years technology has changed the way we travel. However, it seems this was just the beginning of the rise of the machines. Come 2017 ‘chatbots’ will hit the mainstream, Virtual Reality will, well, become a reality, and we’re all playing travel agent. The future is now – here are three travel technology innovations to watch out for.

1. CHAT APPS

First up, chat-based interfaces or ‘conversational commerce’ have emerged. Case in point: Lola, a personalised chat-based messaging service from Paul English, cofounder of Kayak. Customers text their travel requests and the app acts as a travel concierge via live, instant, text-based conversations. The idea is that the conversation flows: bookings are made and preferences (likes and dislikes) are stored for next time.

2. VIRTUAL TRAVEL AGENTS

Both recently revealed and both set to ‘disrupt’ the travel industry, Google Trips and Airbnb Trips are offering a virtual alternative to the traditional travel agent for those who prefer to keep their plans in their pocket. Google Trips navigates you through every step of your trip: you can book flights and accommodation and it has a personalised guide that automatically maps out an itinerary, with suggestions for what you might like to see and do using information Google harvests from your search history and Gmail inbox.

The Airbnb Trips service takes the personalised trip and sharing economy a step further, enabling local people to advertise their local knowledge, experience, skills or even just their social life. The app allows you to book experiences with locals (“explore Havana’s music scene with an award-winning vocalist”) and discover ‘secret spots’ recommended by local insiders.

3. VIRTUAL REALITY

However if you just can’t find the time to get away, simply strap on a headset. Come 2017, Virtual Reality (VR) is set to become a…reality, thanks to the introduction of several new VR headsets this year including Google’s Daydream VR and Sony’s PlayStation VR. Last month at Facebook’s annual VR conference Mark Zuckerberg showed off ‘Carmel’, a VR web browser compatible with any Oculus VR headset (Oculus is owned by Facebook), following predictions that every company will eventually have a “WebVR” just as they have websites and mobile apps.

VR tours have already gained traction in the world of travel. Ascape allows for scenic 360° VR travel ranging from a day in Prague to a safari in Africa.

Qantas has also just unveiled its VR app, allowing ‘travellers’ to explore a variety of Australian destinations – from Sydney Harbour to Uluru – through a series of immersive videos before booking their flights.

Welcome to the future…

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Chloe Sachdev
Chloe Sachdev is a lifestyle journalist covering food, nightlife, culture, travel and fashion trends. She is senior features editor at Urban Junkies and has written for Condé Nast Traveller, The Telegraph, The Evening Standard, Wallpaper, Asos and MSN UK.

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