Not augmented, not virtual – it’s mixed reality that changes the game
Blippar is one of the well-funded augmented reality software providers to have targeted the travel industry in 2016.
The company raised $54 million in a Series D round in March this year, just 12 months after bringing in $45 million with a C-round.
Investors like it, clearly.
Unless you’ve had your head under a rock for the last six months, augmented reality seems to have captured the attention of a number of brands this year as The Next Big Thing.
Some brands, such as Monarch, have been playing around with virtual reality for a while, with a direct marketing-to-mobile AR campaign back in 2012.
Blippar’s president for global marketing, Omaid Hiwaizi, says that that simple campaign (from a user perspective) alone brought in 7,200 direct bookings, giving the airline an additional £2.2 million in revenue.
Speaking at the Travelport Live event in Macau, Hiwaizi says there are four areas in which AR can take hold in the travel industry.
- Bringing the experience to the customer before they book.
- Navigation and guiding (airports, hotels).
- Making travel frictionless (such as translation tools).
- Destination discovery (tours of attractions).
Hiwaizi says the parallel moves in virtual reality, where users take an “immersive experience” into a scenario via a headset, have their merit but the upfront costs are often prohibitive for brands.
Where this all goes next is anyone’s guess, but Hiwaizi claims the most likely outcome is actually in a combination of the two disciplines – what he calls “mixed reality”.
One of the pioneers in this area is Magic Leap, a US-company which has managed to raise $1.4 billion in funding but still hasn’t brought anything into the market for users to play with.
Magic Leap uses a wearable device, like spectacles (but infinitely more “wearable” than the nerdy Google Glass hardware), but then enhances the visual work through an augmented reality-type interface.
The latest proof-of-concept video from Magic Leap is pretty extraordinary, and clearly contains huge opportunities for the travel industry.
NB: Disclosure – the author’s attendance at the event was supported by Travelport.
Kevin is senior editor and a co-founder at Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology, a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism and publishes his first book - a biography about Depeche Mode - in early-2017.