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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The next frontier of travel for the super rich

Philippe Brown, founder of bespoke travel company Brown and Hudson, has direct access to the very consumer that has both the means and imagination to push the potential of VR. Unsurprisingly, Silicon Valley chief executives are among his clients most interested in this evolving medium. Among the most ambitious requests he’s working to achieve is creating a new form of holiday album, realised through VR. He consulted the team at Immersive Studios in his effort to realise the project. A rough timeline has been drawn up, and it should begin in May 2022. 

It will likely involve a videographer, clutching a 360-degree camera, trailing a family on their travels, capturing memories that they can later return to in virtual form. The cost to send a videographer with a client, then create such a project, would be significant. Niky Ellison, from Immersive, puts the figure at around £250,000 – a hefty price tag for holiday snaps, albeit a version that could transport you back to fading memories as you age. 

Yet VR, and the so-called metaverse that it might enable, still have some way to go to replace the experience of real travel. 

“While the tech is phenomenal, it’s not a fix-all – you can’t take everything and put it on a VR headset and it’s immediately better,” says Ellison. “The idea does need to be built around this immersive technology.”

Indeed, while my experiences at Immersive – I also enjoyed a recreation of an Eighties concert, a tour of a Maldives resort, and a drive through the Italian Alps – were intriguing, I didn’t entirely lose myself in any of these worlds. I was, rather – as a novice VR user – impressed by the skill that could create something so close to reality (even if it still felt too far from it to veer into the uncanny). 

Matthew Martin, Immersive’s managing director, says VR “still has a little way to go to achieve absolute realism.”

An extra layer of technology could change this. Both he and Brown point to what’s known as haptic feedback. This is the use of vibrations, motions and forces to communicate with the user – you’ll likely have experienced it when using a smartphone or a gaming controller. TESLASUIT and bHaptics are among the companies creating garments that allow their customers to feel this feedback across larger parts of the body. 

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