Today Marriott Hotels launches a brand-new, knock-your-socks-off travel experience that allows you to immerse yourself in a virtual-reality version of London and Hawaii, complete with motion, sounds, and even sprays of water for a “4-D” experience that makes typical virtual reality pale in comparison. The Teleporter, as the experience has been tagged, is being rolled out to the public starting today and over the next eight weeks at select Marriotts nationwide (see the full schedule here). Why should you care? Read on...
Virtual-reality travel has existed for a number of years, but I’ve found it to be a sterile, devoid of life, without sensory interaction, and, frankly, a little fake. So when I got a chance to preview the Teleporter yesterday at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square, I was skeptical. But I can tell you now, after spending two minutes in the Teleporter pod wearing an Oculus Rift DK2 headset, yesterday I was in London. I was in Hawaii. And I was loving it!
The brief but intense “journey” begins in a computer-generated version of the lobby bar of the Marriott Baltimore Waterfront. You move across the lobby to a video map of Hawaii, then seemingly enter the map like the Starship Enterprise leaping into warp drive. An instant later, you are enjoying the scenery at Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach in Maui. Every detail is clear, vivid. You hear the waves lapping on the shore. Your hair rustles as a soft breeze blows past. The afternoon sun warms your face. And no matter which direction you look—down at your feet, behind you, to your left and right, you feel as if you are really standing in that magical spot. And just when you really start digging it, you’re whooshed back to the lobby bar only to do it all over again, but this time you find yourself high atop Tower 42 in London, at night, dangling over the edge. Your mind says, "It's not real." Your senses say, "Whoa, baby!"
Michael Dail, vice president of brand marketing for Marriott Hotels, says the Teleporter is just one component of the chain’s Travel Brilliantly campaign to get the public to think of Marriott as something a little more hip and high tech than an average business hotel. “We’re pioneering what travel is going to mean in the future and how technology can enhance the experience," he says. “Marriott is not that traditional company you once thought of.”
The Teleporter seamlessly blends live-action 360-degree video with “photoreal” computer-generated imagery (CGI). It was created by Relevent, an experiental marketing agency, and Framestore, the studio responsible for the “photoreal” CGI in the film Gravity. And if you’re like me, you’ll feel the experience is indeed so real that when you “return” to the lobby bar, you may find yourself reaching out for a martini, only to grasp thin air. The most disappointing part of the experience? When the nice woman who operates the Teleporter breaks into your dream state with a cheery, “Welcome back!”