Spotlight on: virtual reality, drones and wearable technology

Spotlight on: virtual reality, drones and wearable technology

One is interesting, two is a co-incidence and three is a feature. Or, in this case, a blog post.

The 1-2-3 motto is a benchmark which journalists use to determine whether there is a story worth writing. If three things happen in a short space of time, concerning the same subject, that’s no co-incidence.

That’s a story.

My three relate to technology: virtual reality, drones and wearable technology. No matter how smart or clever the product, it’s not going to add to travel’s social media armoury if it’s:

a) expensive

b) a pain

c) iffy.

I had really high hopes of Fly Nixie. It was marketed as a wearable camera drone that could fly off your wrist to follow you, say, down a ski slope or on a tightrope. The potential for use in travel blogging was huge and the promo video was excellent:

That was September 2014 and it’s still not available. In the last year, there have been fewer than a dozen tweets on its account. This month, it tweeted that it was “time for Nixie to leave the Nixie Lab” and released a truly dreadful mock-up video from its CEO:

Will it ever fly? Well, it’s looking distinctly: there are a lot of drones now out there unlikely and the goodwill is much lessened.

The second news story to prick up the ears was that virtual reality is falling behind sales predictions. More than two million headsets were slated to sell in 2016, the year the big brands were released, but the target was missed by 300,000.

Not disastrous – but compare that with the 3.3m Apple iPhones sold in the first six months of debut in 2007, as pointed out in Behind the Numbers of Virtual Reality’s Sluggish Debut technology review

There have been a number of reports debating whether VR is stalling, and the reasons, including the high costs. iReTron has asked; is virtual reality stalling? While Retail Wire questions what’s stalling the virtual reality market?

The iReTron report refers to the failure of 3D films and TVs and suggested that the need to wear glasses diminished the appeal. You can see the same issue relating to VR headsets.

They are great for gaming – and instructional or educational simulations. Have a look at the 5 simulation games we’re dying to see VR versions of as an example. But there has not been an overwhelming case for travel. So far.

Facebook, which owns the Oculus headset, says it is taking “a long-term approach,” saying it could be a decade before the technology is mature enough to meet expectations – an awfully long time when technology is evolving so fast.

Thirdly, drones. There is no doubt that sales are increasing fast. That growth is mirrored by increased rules regarding usage, non-licenced usage and diversifying usage, such as home deliveries.

But most travel usage is of low fly-bys over water, cliffs and cities like seen here:

My point here is that the technology is more usable than VR or wearables and is becoming less expensive – however, most travel footage has lacked imagination.

Of the three new, emerging technologies suited to travel, drones have the legs. Indeed, there is increasingly better editing to splice in land-based video alongside more sparse usage of drone film.

The choice, cost and quality of drone cameras is also improving: the Best Drones for Travel Photography Now I await better results, with more imagination and pizazz.

Bring it on!

Tagged .

Steve Keenan has been a travel journalist for 25 years. He started at a Reed paper, news editing at Travel News in London - now Travel Weekly - having spent the previous 10 years reporting general news at a variety of papers and news agencies, in the UK and abroad. He has also taught English in Peru, delivered cars in the USA, ran the Sydney desk at AAP and caught the train home from Hong Kong pre-fall of the Wall, the only hitch being a train strike in Belguim. Once Steve decided travel was his thing, he left TN in 1990 to freelance. He wrote freelanced for a variety of trade and consumer press, from L'Echo Touristique in France to The Journal of Air Commerce in New York. He began writing for The Times of London on travel news and business travel in 1996, went on contract two years later and joined the paper fulltime as deputy travel editor in 2000. In December 2004, he became the first national digital travel editor in the UK, running the travel website of The Times and Sunday Times. Three days after joining, the Indian Ocean tsunami happened and online reporting, video, webinars, analysis and comment suddenly made a lot of sense. The introduction of a paywall at the papers in 2010 persuaded him that the connected world might continue outside of Wapping and in December 2011, he left News International to co-form Travel Perspective. The company ran the inaugural Social Travel Market at Reed's World Travel Market in London last November, and now works with Reed Expos and other clients in helping the industry best understand and embrace the world of social and digital media in travel.

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