A 4-D Virtual Vacation is Almost as Cool as the Oculus Rift

The Marriott/Oculus Rift ‘Teleporter’ is in town, letting folks take a digital trip to London or Hawaii.
The Marriott/Oculus Rift ‘Teleporter’ is in town, letting folks take a digital trip to London or Hawaii. –Travel Brilliantly

A 4-D virtual vacation booth created by Oculus and Marriott Hotels is stopping by Cambridge this weekend on a nationwide tour.

The two are working together to show off something that is supposed to be sort of like a vacation: For a few moments, you can step inside a booth, put on the Oculus Rift headset (you might recall, Oculus is the virtual reality company bought by Facebook earlier this year), and voila—you’re transported to a black sand beach in Hawaii or the top of a London skyscraper overlooking the city.

The Cambridge hotel, steps from MIT, attracted a tech savvy crowd that was less interested in the travel part and way more curious about the technology involved in getting them there.

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Every few minutes, a new person would swing by whispering excitedly about the Oculus Rift and step in line to try it out.

“It’s hard to pass up a chance to try out the Oculus Rift,’’ said Joyce Chen, director of communications for the MIT Enterprise Forum. “I work in tech and I think almost everyone in this area does…Oculus rift is one of the breakthrough technologies of this year.’’

Boston is the second stop on the Teleporter’s tour of U.S. cities. In mid-September, Marriott’s Travel Brilliantly campaign stopped in New York City. Sarah Steffenauer, Marriott’s global PR director, definitely noticed a difference between the New York group and the Boston visitors.

“New York was really interesting but it was more of a travel experience,’’ she said. “But here in Boston it is all about the technology. They’re so familiar with the Oculus Rift technology that they’re really excited seeing it used in a way that’s not gaming.’’

The campaign is noteworthy as a non-gaming use of the Oculus technology. The same visual effects group that worked on the movie Gravity, Framestone, filmed the Hawaii and London locations. The shoot took about two days for each spot.

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The Teleporter also includes external elements, like a mist of water for the Hawaii scene and a rush of wind from the London skyscraper.

Steffenauer said in the future, they hope guests can use the Teleporter to experience different travel locations to help when booking vacations.

But Boston’s techies seemed way more interested in just using the tech itself.

“It took a little bit getting used to,’’ said Joyce Chen, director of communications for the MIT Enterprise Forum. “When I initially put it on I thought the resolution would be so high that I would be fooled.’’

Hans Harmadi had been sitting in the lobby of the hotel when he noticed the Teleporter. He said he’d read about it.

“You can tell it was computer images, but still, you feel like you’re there,’’ he said. (And what does that say about how we see the world today?)

Drew Kendra works at Volpe, the National Transportation Systems Center right near the hotel. He said he wondered if this technology could be used at Volpe.

“We work with transportation issues, all modes of transportation. Simulation is sometimes a part of it.’’

The Teleporter will be in the Marriott Hotel in Cambridge and open to the public this weekend:

Saturday, Sept. 27: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 28: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 29: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

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