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Expedia jumping on the VR bandwagon could mean big things for hotels

   NEWS / 12 Apr 2017

It's hard picturing how a hotel room could feel just based on pictures alone, but Expedia's got a futuristic solution for you. 

The travel giant is working on offering virtual reality versions of its listings, as more people have access to VR gear at home.

"If you're going to make the decision of [booking] a cruise, wouldn't it be cool if you could check out the ship [virtually] before you spend that much money?" Arthur Chapin, Expedia's Senior Vice President, Product and Design, said during a demo at the Expedia office in Singapore. 

VR could change the way people make their booking decisions, allowing users to virtually step into a hotel room and view its features, he said at the company's new innovation lab facility. 

In the demo we saw, users were able to interact with the room too, by sliding open doors and stepping out into the balcony.

And VR isn't the only technology Expedia is looking into. 

The travel company's also looking into smart voice devices like Amazon's Echo to see how they could be used to help in the travel booking process.

"I think voice is something that will become a part of how people interact with travel," said Mr Chapin.

"So we're continuing to experiment with voice, and chatbots — not only on the consumer side but also on the partner side, so our hotel [clients] can interact with us through such chats."

Expedia, which spent more than $1 billion investing in technology last year, says it is crucial to do so because it would otherwise be "very hard to keep up."

"We are always investing in research and various different pieces of technology and why we do that is...when you look at disruptive products, they tend to start slow then all of a sudden disruption hits. If you're not already thinking about it, it can be very hard to keep up," Mr Chapin explains.

Aside from VR, the new innovation lab is Expedia's first in the region to use electromyography (EMG) technology.

EMG machines allow scientists to track emotional response to its website via facial muscles, helping to indicate if there are parts of the booking process that may frustrate users. 

Expedia, which has been named the world's largest online travel company, last year announced that was is looking to increase its gross bookings to $100 billion by 2020. 

 

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