Imagine strolling Hawaii’s Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach with ocean spray on your skin or catching the stunning view atop London’s Tower 42 surrounded by city sounds and that all-encompassing fog—all without the jet lag. It’s all possible with Marriott’s new virtual-reality 4-D experience. Marriott partnered with Academy Award-winning visual effects company Framestore (you’ve seen their work in films such as “Gravity” and “Avatar”) and Oculus Rift (a company that specializes in 3-D gaming headsets) to create the telephone booth-like teleporter, giving users the sensation they’ve traveled halfway across the globe when they slip on the headset and wireless headphones and feel the physical features of destination such as heat, wind, and mist.
The teleporter embarked on an eight-city tour in September at New York Marriott Marquis. It was during its fourth stop at Atlanta Marriott Marquis when I decided to jump in and check out the experience for myself. Separating myself from reality proved a little tricky; the headset and headphones aren’t exactly lightweight, and I was a little anxious for the whole 4-D thing to start because of my somewhat claustrophobic tendencies. But I have to admit it was an excellent, immersive experience, unlike anything I have ever done.
The first stop on my virtual-reality tour was the Marriott Greatroom, complete with modern furniture, a bar, and all the sights and sounds of a bustling hotel lobby. Then, following a flash reminiscent of time travel, I was transported to a palm tree-studded Maui beach. Waves crashed onto the black sand while the misty ocean—thanks to a strategically placed sensory element—gently sprayed me. During the next stop, I found myself at the top of a London skyscraper at night, lurched forward—thanks to a moving platform I was standing on—seemingly about to plummet to the ground dozens of stories below. I grabbed onto a railing built into the teleporter to get my balance.
The experience is super realistic. It left me slightly shaky, but it put me in places I haven’t and may never visit. But if I end up in Maui or London, I know what to expect to see, hear and feel.
Meeting planners, take note. These immersive 4-D virtual travel tools may become more mainstream and can create opportunities for scouting event locations without actually having to travel to them. Because they are made using live footage, you’ll get a realistic perception without spending your time and money traveling. My one piece of advice: Wear sturdy shoes.