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.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.



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  1. Daniele Beccari

    Maybe even more interesting to mention that Blippar founding CEO and CMO are alumni of travel startups 🙂

  2. Pierre Boettner

    With all due respect, I need to disagree. While I am a big believer in augmented and virtual reality and follow Magic Leap as closely as possible, it seems to me, that the travel industry is just gearing up for the next hype. All examples that are talked about have to do with a different marketing or discovery experience, some instant translation sprinkled in, and a more visual and interactive exchange of information between people.
    From that to make the claim that the travel ‘industry’ is a target, or could somehow benefit from VR, is misleading at best. It would be similar to claim that the next iPhone model will take the industry by storm, because the industry’s customers will be using it. Or claiming that pocket dictionaries somehow changed the industry 50 years ago – it didn’t.
    The industry is already man easy target for whatever the next hype is and tends to always look for the ‘new shiny object’. So even if you can find lots of travel industry executives being excited about VR, it is often because, as an industry, we aren’t very good at analyzing and understanding our customers.
    Just think of: in seat phone in Airlines (~1990’s), automatic trouser press in 4-5* hotels (~1980’s), Kiosk check in (early 2000’s (worked out well for airlines, failure in hotels)), personal tablet for guests (just a few years ago). The list is virtually endless. What I would like to see the industry do is to start to really understand who their customers are, and focus on delivering a good and useful service. There aren’t enough millennials for the products thrown at that demographic and I even doubt that Millennials can even be categorized into a single ‘type’ of behavior – in short, the industry really needs to grow up.

    • Kevin May

      Kevin May

      @pierre – you seem very angry, sir… Chill out a bit eh. Of course, the travel industry is a target for such technologies, primarily because it’s an “experiential” product and things like AR and VR lend themselves to allowing a brand showcase or enhance a trip.


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