Airbnb has spent the last couple of years expanding well beyond its original mission, launching Experiences, exploring business travel, and partnering with range of collaborators including Vice, Pantone, and the entire country of Sweden.
For its latest trick, Airbnb is testing the use of immersive technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality to “reduce the barriers to travel and the inherent friction that comes with it.”
Specifically, the company explained in a press release, they’re experimenting with using virtual reality before a trip and augmented reality during a trip to help guests select and navigate their rentals. Three-dimensional scans and 360-degree photos (like the prototype above) would offer users a better sense of a listing before they book, while augmented reality overlays could help guests better understand their temporary home once they’ve arrived.
Virtual tours are nothing new in the real estate industry, but anyone who’s been fooled by an artfully staged photo or a flattering angle can easily see why they’d be a helpful addition to Airbnb.
The augmented reality capabilities may in fact be the more interesting of the two. Airbnb envisions a world in which guests can use AR to find directions to the coffee mugs in the morning or to instantly translate text in a foreign language, or even to “breathe life into a space and tell the story behind the personal items to connect a traveler with their host and a new city in richer, more immersive ways.”
Airbnb was careful to promise no specific services or rollout dates, saying only that they’re “excited” to continue exploring the options and “want to make sure anything we introduce really brings value to guests, hosts and the communities,” but we’ll be staying tuned.