Augmenting the Hotel of the Future with Augmented Reality

Why the New Virtual World is Much Closer than You Think

By Vanessa Horwell Founder & Chief Visibility Officer, ThinkInk & TravelInk'd | November 10, 2013

Everyone knows predicting the future is difficult. No matter how hard we try, we're bound to misfire. In 1967 the BBC boldly forecast that by 1987 every home – presumably in the UK – would be fitted with computer terminals and bedside teletype machines printing out the days' news.

Misfire? Yes. Total misfire? Not exactly. While

">video footage of the BBC prediction feels a bit silly today, (the typewriter is what kills it) the voiceover narration is accurate in recognizing the eventual home computing and mobile revolutions. People do read news off their smartphones in bed while numerous laptops, screens and tablets populate our homes and businesses, including hotels.

Instead of Predicting the Future, the BBC Perceived What Would Be

For the hotel industry, wearable computers are poised to become the next great electronic transformer. And products like Google Glass, due out in 2014, are helping re-invigorate a subset of that upheaval: augmented reality (AR), which combines computer-generated images and information with physical environments in real time.

Like the BBC, we too can perceive likely advances – even if foreseeing specifics is difficult. At both the 2012 and 2013 Consumer Electronic Shows, malleable and foldable gadgets captured significant attention. Products are getting smaller, lighter, faster and less expensive. Streamlined products – à la Apple – are all the rage and "seamless" has become a watchword of our tech-savvy times. We may not be wearing our smartphones like appendages just yet. But already 90% of older teens and 20-somethings admit to sleeping with their phones and millions more of us walk around with Bluetooth-enabled ear buds.

Based on these trends, AR looks like the dominant outgrowth of the coming wearable computer revolution. The technology has had a few false starts. But, for hoteliers, the latest advances suggest unmatched monetization and customer experience potential. The question is: Are hotel brands ready for this change and are they investing in the staff training, IT and creative talent necessary to capitalize on AR's capabilities and guest engagement reach?

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Coming up in November 2018...

Architecture & Design: Expecting the Unexpected

There are more than 700,000 hotels and resorts worldwide and the hotel industry is continually looking for new ways to differentiate its properties. In some cases, hotels themselves have become travel destinations and guests have come to expect the unexpected - to experience the touches that make the property unlike any other place in the world. To achieve this, architects and designers are adopting a variety of strategies to meet the needs of every type of guest and to provide incomparable customer experiences. One such strategy is site-integration - the effort to skillfully marry a hotel to its immediate surroundings. The goal is to honor the cultural location of the property, and to integrate that into the hotel's design - both inside and out. Constructing low-impact structures that blend in with the environment and incorporating local natural elements into the design are essential to this endeavor. Similarly, there is an ongoing effort to blur the lines between interior and exterior spaces - to pull the outside in - to enable guests to connect with nature and enjoy beautiful, harmonious surroundings at all times. Another design trend is personalization - taking the opportunity to make every space within the hotel original and unique. The days of matching decor and furniture in every room are gone; instead, designers are utilizing unexpected textures, mix-and-match furniture, diverse wall treatments and tiles - all to create a more personalized and fresh experience for the guest. Finally, lobbies are continuing to evolve. They are being transformed from cold, impersonal, business-like spaces into warm, inviting, living room-like spaces, meant to provide comfort and to encourage social interaction. These are a few of the current trends in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.