Like basically every tool, every instrument, technology, on its own, is neither bad nor good. In the vacuum tools are inert, lifeless, and it’s the purpose of the wielder what makes them despicable or adorable. That is also the conclusion I think I come to when I wonder what the use of virtual reality and augmented reality will mean for tourism and travelling.
Let’s face it, on paper things don’t look too good. Since the coming of the smart phone, human interaction has been reduced to a minimum when it comes to travel experiences for most people. You go to a hostel common room and they may be even fuller than they could have been 15 years ago, but everyone is minding their own business, their own devices. Interacting with people that are not there, or maybe not interacting at all, just browsing through their own or other pictures, googling what’s there to do and see next in their location.
We don’t go to restaurants unless we know what hundreds of people that reviewed them before think. We don’t try new things unless we are already aware of what they are and confident we won’t regret them.
Can you imagine what could happen if you could add the experiences virtual and augmented reality provide to what we have already going on? Most people would probably not even travel anymore. After all, putting on the VR glasses and seeing the greatest landmarks of humanity at your pace, on your own, and for a much cheaper price without all the annoyances of not knowing the language, different weathers, etc. probably sounds like an awesome deal to most.
But as the name says, it’s not real, it’s virtual. And no matter how real it feels, and I’m sure it will get to the point where your brain won’t really be able to tell the difference, it will still miss out. Because those bad parts of travelling, those misunderstandings, those uncomfortable situations, they are also essential to the maturing that travel provides oneself.
It’s not all bad, though. Thanks to VR we could do things we only dreamt of before. Like travelling in time, visiting the Roman Empire Rome, viking Danish coasts, medieval old towns of the Hanseatic League. Maybe those things are worth embracing VR for. I am still unsure. I guess I would have to try it to have a better opinion.
But I fear the day is coming where it will be hard to travel because no one will do it anymore. Where people won’t see a point to it, and how sad that world could be!