Technology has influenced everything from the way we shop, to how we work and even how we find love. So it was only a matter of time before it changed where we do those things too.
The Internet of Things is fast becoming a presence in any household, take the Amazon Echo, but will these internet enabled devices really take over our spaces? “For me personally, I feel like we need to make sure we don't dilute the human experiences of things,” says Jeany Ngo, artist and Designer at Airbnb.
“That's what makes Airbnb so great, there are parts of it that are very human. When you travel somewhere we can help you experience some local activities that you wouldn't have done otherwise but we don't want to dilute it, as if this is prescribed as to what travel should be, you should go on these adventures on your own and explore what might fulfil you for travel.”
However, even the very definition of exploration is changing with the increasing accessibility of virtual reality. Is exploring the Great Wall of China or Machu Picchu through VR the same as exploring it on foot in China or Peru? And if it is, does it matter, especially when it’s widening the scope of educational understanding?
When it comes to VR and travel, Ngo says human experiences can’t be recreated: “Having travelled for the past three weeks there's nothing like being in another city, feeling the culture of that city, because I don't know if you can augment the good things like meeting strangers and doing karaoke in Tokyo, and getting really drunk. I don’t know if you can experience that over VR.”
But, she adds, it might be good for augmenting certain travel experiences. “There are things that virtual reality can offer, that I think is valuable but I think there are things in the human experience that can't be replaced virtually."
VR has already excelled in one area of the travel industry, in what’s been termed as ‘try before you fly’ experiences – giving prospective tourists a chance to see their potential destinations before booking their trip. Virgin Holidays have created Virgin Holidays Virtual Holidays using VR and have seen a rise in sales to one of their key destinations.
In terms of creating these experiences from a design perspective, technology is both a help and a hindrance. It’s allowing designers to get to know their audiences better, but it’s also making it easier for businesses to lose track of the users who will eventually own or experience the product.
“I think we can lose the heart of building this for people very easily, we can lose the heart of empathising with our users and I think that's a problem that is important to understand even now, let alone in the future as technology continues to grow,” says Ngo.
Whether we take our next beach holiday from our sofa, or experience the wonders of the world in person, but with a VR headset feeding us extra information, it’s only a matter of time before technology plays a huge part in the places we live in and travel to.