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Flight Centre will let you experience your destination in VR before traveling

By Koh Wanzi - on 24 Nov 2015, 4:04pm

Flight Centre will let you experience your destination in VR before traveling

It’s one thing to obsessively hoard travel brochures and trawl through photo libraries as part of your pre-trip research, but we’ve all wished for a way to more fully experience our destination before committing to it. I mean, what if that beach only looked so spectacular because of that new Instagram filter?

That may now be possible - well, sort of anyway - thanks to a new virtual reality initiative launched by Flight Centre, a local travel agent that wants to help customers make more informed decisions. Flight Centre will use Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition headsets (not the consumer edition unfortunately) to offer customers virtual reality clips of select destinations, allowing them to experience a mix of moving videos and still photos for a true 360° experience.

Flight Centre uses Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition headsets for its VR experience. A digital feedback form on the tablet beside it encourages customers to leave feedback.

These are still early days though, and Flight Centre is currently offering the VR experience for only Tokyo, Hoi An, and Cairns. We had the opportunity to try out the clip for Tokyo, where we found ourselves standing in the midst of the famed Shibuya crossing before we were whisked away to cower in the shadow of some giant anime robot.
Flight Centre has deliberately included a mix of sights and sounds from both the city and more remote countryside, so customers will get to enjoy a more complete experience of their chosen destination.

The three destinations were selected based on a variety of factors, including popularity and the desire to raise their profile among potential vacationers. For instance, Cairns may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of Australia, but Flight Centre hopes that the VR experience will help customers find out more about this under-appreciated destination.

Flight Centre has also partnered with TaKanto Virtual Reality to record and produce these VR videos. VR videos are shot using six- to 12-camera rigs like the one below, and they are put together via a complex process of synchronizing and stitching. Here is a look at one of the camera rigs used in the shooting, featuring six GoPro Hero4 Black cameras held together by a 3D printed mold and mounted on top of a Nodal Ninja tripod:

A six-camera VR rig.

But these cameras are anything but earthbound. Ariel Talbi, TaKanto’s Managing Director, told us that similar rigs are also dangled out of helicopters, encased in waterproof shells for underwater shots, or mounted on drones in order to capture the clips the company needs.

This versatility certainly bodes well for the experiences that Flight Centre will eventually be able to offer. Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef anyone? The travel agent has plans to offer VR experiences of still more destinations in the near future, so you may yet get to see your dream destination in VR before jetting off.

In addition, VR could offer customers a way to preview things like hotels and airplane cabins.

If you thought VR is just a stunt tool, our opinion is that it has to be experienced to appreciate the immersive experience it offers. With VR hardware and software still scarce, this offering from Flight Centre is one of the rare consumer touchpoints for consumers in Singapore to experience how VR can assist you to visualize your destination in ways you never thought was possible unless you were physically present at these destinations.

Starting tomorrow, customers will be able to try out the VR experiences for themselves at Flight Centre stores at Cecil Street, CityLink Mall, and Plaza Singapura. To find out more about Flight Centre, you can head to their website here.

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