It is incredible to see how technology has changed in recent decades especially in terms of computing, mobile and internet innovations. Every year computers and mobile phones become faster, more versatile and more powerful. The smart phones that increasing numbers of us take for granted and carry with us everywhere, have the same capabilities in terms of speed, storage and power that many computers had just a few years ago!

To compliment this revolution in mobile technology there have been rapid improvements in wifi and mobile internet. Many companies are now battling to bring commercially viable and widely available 5G technology to their markets, with many predicting this will occur by 2020 or sooner. The online experience for users will be significantly improved, as trials so far of 5G have achieved download speeds to mobiles of greater than 20 Gps. There is no doubt therefore that 5G is going to be much, much quicker than current mobile network speeds.

Clearly the EU is taking the digital revolution seriously as it has proposed  to equip every village and city across Europe with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020. This process has already begun, as it was a pleasant surprise to find free public wifi on a recent holiday in a small rural Greek village. This would have been unheard of even five years ago. There are obviously some big changes on the horizon, one of which is the advancement of a technology called Augmented Reality which is significantly aided by the spread of this super fast, free mobile internet.

What exactly is Augmented Reality?

Firstly let’s talk a little about an app that was released recently that you may have heard of: Pokémon GO. Even if you haven’t actually played it, we are sure you know someone who has or you have at least heard of it! The growth and popularity of this game has been absolutely staggering and took almost everyone by surprise, overtaking even the most popular social media apps such as Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. This summer alone around 50 million people have been said to have played monthly, with players continuing to play daily and for longer than they spend on social media.

The premise of the game is simple as players must travel around to different locations in real life to catch Pokemon (pocket monsters) which are displayed virtually on their mobile screen but overlaid onto the actual locations. The app cleverly utilizes your mobile’s GPS to display the Pokemon on your screen as if they were near you, with different Pokemon appearing depending on your location. In this sense the game utilizes reality but superimposes digital media onto it.

The game has been a smash hit and has brought the concept of Augmented Reality squarely into the mainstream. According to the technology website Mashable, “Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.” In other words,  AR superimposes digital media over the real one, using either special glasses or an AR-enabled browser on a smartphone.

This is very much different from Virtual Reality (VR) which transports the user into a totally virtual world. While VR has a lot of possibilities for gaming, movies and other forms of entertainment, AR seems to have a lot more mainstream appeal as evidenced by the huge popularity of Pokemon GO. Rather than separating you from the real world, it adds virtual elements instead. There are already rumoured Facebook and Snapchat augmented reality glasses in development.

Why should your brand be using Augmented Reality?

With the huge mainstream success of Pokemon GO among kids, teens and adults alike, clearly there is a huge appeal to AR across almost all generations, especially as people become more and more tech savvy. It has also caught the attention of mainstream tech and social media companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Snapchat.

Although things are never certain within the tech world, all the signs point to AR growing hugely in terms of uses and profit within the coming years. It seems that catching Pokemon was only the start. AR could become part of our everyday lives in much the same way as smartphones, digital media and social media. It would be foolish for your brand to ignore the potential for connecting with your customers and enhancing their experience that AR brings!

One area that AR is predicted to make a big impact with in the near future is within hotels and resorts, because it addresses two important traveller’s needs: entertainment and information. In fact it is likely that AR will become one of the top technology trends within the hotel and resort industry. Your brand can improve the experience for your guests and differentiate itself from competitors who have not been as quick to catch up with the latest trends.

Millennials are increasingly being drawn to brands that surprise them with useful, interesting and entertaining innovations and will likely recommend your hotel or resort and return again if it incorporates technological innovation that they like. In much the same way that guests now expect fast, free wifi or to be able to make inquiries via social media, AR could become the norm.

Possible ways your resort could use Augmented Reality

Translation:

This is an excellent and very useful feature for foreign travellers who do not always speak or understand the language of the resort destination they are staying at. As international travel continues to grow especially from new markets such as Asian travellers to Europe this could become more and more significant. Guests could easily overcome this problem by pointing their AR-enabled device at signs, menus and other written items in a hotel and see an automatic translation.

Wayfinding and points of interest:

Wall maps could be placed within each resort room which are compatible with AR technology. When a guest aims their smartphone at this map they will be able to see useful and interesting information displayed about local points of interest and their distance from the resort. In this sense the wall map linked with AR will help your guests find local amenities and their way around. Local points of interest are also a big selling point for guests so AR technology on your resort website could also display local amenities.

Property previews:

A really great way to help market your resort is by giving potential guests an AR preview of the rooms and facilities. This is a significant step up from other forms of marketing such as brochures, websites or social media. One example of this has already been released by luxury property The Mansion at Casa Madrona which uses an “augmented, printed brochure to more effectively demonstrate and showcase their renowned amenities and accommodations to potential guests,” according to Augment.com. There are also AR microsites being developed in order to preview cities for potential guests, with one such brand hotels.com planning to use this technology. Room selection during the booking process can also be enhanced through the implementation of AR.

Virtual entertainment:

People love entertainment on their mobile phones, particularly millennials, as shown by the huge popularity of Pokemon GO. Your hotel or resort can offer interactive AR entertainment experiences to set yourself apart from the competition. One example of this is through offering a downloadable Blippar app which allows access to interactive trivia games, customizable selfies and suggested food and drink pairings when aimed at a “blippable” beverage coaster.

Virtual design and decor:

In your hotel restaurant for example AR images could be projected onto the tables allowing your guests to order items from a multimedia-rich menu, select their own table theme, or watch a live video feed from the kitchen. AR could also be implemented around other locations of the hotel to give more information about features within different areas such as the gym, or even facts and history of paintings or architectural features.

As you can see the possibilities of Augmented Reality for enhancing the experience for your guests and promoting your resort to potential future travellers are almost endless. Let us know in the comment section below or via our social media using #RDOdigital if your timeshare resort has tried out Augmented Reality yet or if you are planning to. If you really want to set yourself ahead of the competition, don’t wait, join the AR revolution now!