Virtual Travel

Virtual Tourism Is The Future Of The Travel Industry, Research Suggests

Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia recently released a new proposal for a virtual travel experience that they claim to be the future of the travel industry. In 2020 alone, the coronavirus pandemic has caused the tourism industry to dwindle greatly, along with many other industries in the world. During a global health crisis that requires everyone to stay home in order to keep everyone safe, travel lovers are trying to get creative, and this pair thinks they have the solution. 

The proposal was published in the scientific journal, Cell Patterns by Dr. Arni Srivasa Rao, director of the medical school’s Laboratory for Theory and Mathematical Modeling, and co-author Dr. Steven Krantz, a professor of mathematics and statistics at Washington University. The proposal claims that by using the billions of existing photos and videos online of travel hotspots throughout the world, and some advanced mathematical techniques, the current internet-based tourism experience could improve tenfold. 

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According to the proposal, the two have a technique that digitally measures the shapes, angles, and curvatures of certain objects in these images, as well as determines the distance between the camera and the object itself. Using drone footage, photos, and other videos compiled from online resources, the two believe they could make virtual travel experiences “more realistic for viewers that will help revitalize the tourism industry.”

The specific technology involved in these measurements is referred to as Live Streaming with Actual Proportionality of Objects, or LAPO for short. LAPO implements what’s known as “information geometry,” which essentially refers to measuring the actual dimensions of a given object in an image, and “conformal mapping,” which uses that information geometry to measure distance between objects and create more realistic imaging of people, places, and objects. 

“This is about having a new kind of technology that uses advanced mathematical techniques to turn digitized data into more realistic photos and videos with more of a feel for the location than you would get watching a movie or documentary.”

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Rao used the example of seeing the Statue of Liberty from a boat in the Hudson River versus watching a video of it, and how those two experiences greatly differ. However, with LAPO technology, Rao and his colleagues are able to measure and preserve “multiple angles and digitize that into video form so consumers can visualize it from multiple angles.” This will make people at home feel like they’re really there. 

The two main authors really wanted to emphasize their belief in this technology’s ability to help the tourism industry remain afloat/recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. They believe virtual tourism is the future based on the fact that overall it’s simply cheaper, safer because it can be done from home, easily accessible for all, and eliminates any risks that may arise from traveling to a new area of the world. 

“Virtual tourism also creates new employment opportunities for virtual tour guides, interpreters, drone pilots, videographers and photographers, as well as those building the new equipment for virtual tourism.”

People would pay for these experiences the same way they would pay a hotel or airline to take them somewhere, however, it will be monumentally cheaper based on the fact that you’re not actually going to the location itself. Rao and Krantz claim their next step is going to be to bring in some new investors and partners in the hospitality and tourism industry.

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