Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), collectively known as XR technology, recently made headlines when Facebook announced a wholesale rebranding of the company as Meta, recognizing the company’s shift to focusing on these two emerging technologies. Whether you are a true believer in Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the “Metaverse” or not, AR and VR are here to stay and are going to influence our daily lives in many new and innovative ways.
VR creates new virtual worlds, where users can immerse themselves in new experiences using a full-vision headset such as Meta’s popular Oculus product. AR, on the other hand, presents visual information overlaid onto the real-world field of view to provide supplemental information of interest to the user.
Some examples of AR, both old and new, are shown in Figure 1.
The yellow first-down line marker in televised NFL games, the popular game Pokémon GO, Snapchat face filters, and the heads-up display in newer cars are all examples of AR applications. Real estate applications, such as the Ikea Place application that shows “realistically rendered, true-to-scale” 3D furniture in the user’s home, are also being developed in AR. Just as the personal computer revolutionized technology in the early 1980s, and the internet revolution dominated the early 2000s, XR technology is poised to grow from a $20 billion market in 2022 to a $1 trillion market by 2035. The AR component of this growth will be fueled by the release of compact and functional AR glasses in 2024, led by a highly anticipated Apple offering that is currently in development.
The use of AR and VR technology in the vacation rental industry has been somewhat limited to date, with VR tours gaining at least some traction. With the rapid expansion of the technology, however, one thing is for sure: Consumers will want and expect AR experiences to be delivered wherever they are, including when they are on vacation.
The Industry’s Embrace of Software
The vacation rental industry has, in recent years, embraced new software technologies that benefit both property managers and vacation renters. There are many options for property management systems (PMS) that automate the booking, pricing, and day-to-day operations. Other platforms focus on scheduling cleaners, maintenance, and other service providers. Additional software packages focus on streamlining renter/owner/property manager communications. There are specialized applications that control automated door locks, temperature systems, and home surveillance systems, screen applicants, and even monitor noise levels. Finally, concierge platforms provide renters with valuable rental information such as check-in/out procedures, equipment operation, local service provider information, and third-party e-commerce sites or affiliated marketing sites.
Enhancing the User Experience
AR has the potential to be yet another valuable technology tool that can be integrated into new and existing products throughout a property manager’s technology stack. AR has the potential to be used to enhance the user experience in concierge applications by highlighting points of interest in the rental property, as shown in Figure 2, allowing the user to access operating instructions, as shown in Figure 3 for the fireplace highlighted in Figure 2.
Source: Vision Solutions AR
Source: Vision Solution AR
Many types of information that may prove valuable to the renter could be linked to AR elements; information on points of interest, check-in/out procedures, event calendars, ferry schedules, weather, local amenities, and retailers can be customized through the app. Attaching this information to location-specific AR elements in the home allows renters to access information where they need it, when they need it.
AR Is the Future
An important capability of AR applications is the ability to show to-scale 3D representations of people and objects in the user’s field of view. As shown in Figure 4, these 3D renderings are captured in 3D “green screen” studios as either still 3D objects or 3D video, and, once captured, can then be embedded as an AR object in any space.
Source: Avatar Dimensions
For vacation homes, this technology would enable a full-size 3D person to appear in the home to provide welcome messages, paid tutorials, entertainment content, and more. Imagine renting a beach house in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and being able to have a 3D actor representing Wilbur or Orville Wright appear in your living room to give a short history of the birth of flight, or having a virtual bartender appear to show you how to prepare your favorite mixed drink. Picture the rainy day where a parent can purchase an AR game for their children, such as a hide-and-seek game where the kids can search for an AR character generated by the software.
Use of 3D still objects also allow a wide range of applications in AR software. Instead of searching for rental items on a typical website, imagine the beach bike you are evaluating appearing in front of you and being able to walk around the bike and look at all of its features and appreciate its actual dimensions. You could skip the trip to the local souvenir shop and browse items for sale as they appear in 3D on your coffee or breakfast table.
Embrace New Tech
XR technology, associated applications as far as your imagination can envision are coming, and the potential for using this technology is endless. AR technology specifically has great promise for use in vacation rental properties as a means of enhancing the customer experience, increasing revenue, or enhancing operations. The need to embrace this technology will surely increase with the release of AR glasses in the near future. The revolution is coming and will surely impact customer expectations for their vacation rental experience.
Mike Ferreira is the chief operating officer of Home Vision AR.