Wearable technology could provide immediate translations for travellers and suggest holiday destinations

Virtual reality trials for future holiday makers

Future holidaymakers will make virtual reality visits to potential destinations and take advantage semantic search to choose holidays.

The first of a three-part series of reports from travel comparison site Skyscanner called ‘The Future of Travel 2024’ was revealed at an event in London today, looking at what leisure travel will be like in 10 years’ time.

The report predicts the rise of what it calls ‘Digital Travel Buddies’, a virtual companion which uses artificial intelligence to accurately suggest and book suitable trips for the traveller.

Using semantic search, which seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding user intent, online tools will help travellers book bespoke trips based on their responses or even through facial coding algorithms that will enable search engines to read and react to human expressions and adjust results based on the user’s response.

Skyscanner also forecasts that virtual reality will offer holidaymakers the opportunity to ‘try-before-they-buy’ by test-driving trips using technologies such as the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and that the advent of wearable technology, which they say will shrink to fit onto a contact lens, will provide immediate translations, breaking down language barriers for travellers

Skyscanner head of B2B, Filip Filipov, said: "This report focuses on three main trends that we believe, in the next 10 years will affect travel profoundly.

"The first one is the Digital Travel Buddies. So people will be making use of the personal assistants that have already been released in a very specific travel way. The second thing that we believe is that virtual reality will be a way of window shopping. So this is an amazing way of demonstrating where people are headed on holiday.

"Virtual reality, for us, is very important for two reasons, because while we have grown to like travel, we love it as a generation, there are so many people who have never experienced this before, and this takes away that fear. This is how it's going to be, this is what you will see."

Virtual reality headset Oculus Rift already allows users to enter 3D virtual worlds, and as part of the demonstration a virtual tour of a Tuscan villa was shown.

"The second reason virtual reality is important is to do with translation – my parents don't speak a foreign language, which means that every time they travel there is this fear that something might happen, but with things like Google Glass that problem goes away," said Filipov.

Personal assistant software like Siri on Apple's iOS platform can already interact with users, while Google Glass has a live translation app available so menus and signs are translated for wearers.

"The third part is called semantic search. We believe hugely in semantic search. You don't think naturally as two boxes; from box, to box and two dates. You think of 'I would like to go and enjoy my holiday' or 'I would like to have an amazing city break'.

"This is the thinking process and we need to replicate that with the technology. We've tried to do certain things so far, for example we have search everywhere or search per month, but those technologies today with semantic search development allows us to connect what we have in terms of content, with the consumer."

Skyscanner say the semantic search aspect of the future will see users ask for a 'city break' and their computer will automatically present one based on data gathered from your habits, preferences and even mood.

Facial recognition technology was also showcased, and how it can now be placed onto a contact lens and read moods, with a bendable circuit that can fit on a lens having been developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Google have also began development of their own smart contact lenses.

The travel company believe this technology will be applied to personal assistants around the home, suggesting it will be able to recommend a holiday when it tracks your mood and posture changes.

"As people begin to find more purpose for technologies, they start to become more mainstream," he said. "So initially e-readers were for reading, then the iPad came so it was all about the touch screen experience and media.

“As companies we want to be part of this so we want to bring the travel part with those technologies and other companies will build let's say healthcare or something else. That is when that technology will become mainstream; when we all chip in."

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