As virtual reality technology develops and becomes more widely adopted, brands and content creators have the challenge of leveraging the format’s freedom and perspective to create new ways to experience global destinations.
So far, travel brands have had trouble figuring out the best way to create engaging content in virtual reality.
Apps like YouVisit, which positions itself as a central repository of travel brand content, offer little more than traditional videos of destinations and hotels cobbled together poorly in inane, thoughtlessly-composed 360 degree photos and video.
Convention and Visitors Bureaus like Visit Houston and Visit Australia have also worked to integrate virtual reality promotional content into their mobile apps.
Today’s fragmented virtual reality ecosystem, strewn across a variety of headsets and storefronts, makes it hard to have an engaging experience despite a glut of content becoming available.
So Skift tried on Google Cardboard, the newest Samsung Gear VR, and Oculus Rift headsets to take a look at how travel content is adapting to the virtual reality space. Here are our top ten travel virtual reality experiences available today.
Through the Ages
President Obama has waded into the virtual reality ecosystem with a succinct short featuring U.S. National Parks on the centennial of the establishment of the National Parks Service. Viewers tag along with Obama and and his family as they explore Yosemite National Park. He also dispenses some wisdom on the importance of protecting the environment and the need to educate children on American tradition.
Some of the best travel documentaries show the viewer what it’s like to live in a distant part of the planet.
Valen’s Reef tells the story of Ronald Mambrasar, a fisherman turned conservationist in Indonesia, and his efforts to help preserve the endangered coral reefs in his community.
Smart camerawork makes use of 3D and underwater photography to bring the viewer into Mambrasar’s world.
Nomads is an Oculus experience comprised of three documentary videos following nomadic cultures around the world. Built by virtual reality forerunners Felix & Paul, the app’s styling user interface and strong video content is refreshing when compared to many other travel experiences available today in virtual reality.
Huffington Post’s virtual reality group RYOT has created an impressive amount of content for consumer headsets in the last year.
Holy Land, available in the Jaunt VR app, is a series of five documentary shorts taking place around Israel. Each video uses perspective and an intelligent narrator to tell the stories surrounding Israel’s most notable travel destinations and the conflict that these sites have caused over history.
Dive at 360° Into Le Moulin Rouge
Produced by La Parisienne, this look behind the scenes at Paris’ famous Moulin Rouge nightclub gives viewers a new perspective on the iconic travel destination.
The short also has a refreshing sense of humor and leaves the viewer with a better understanding of the iconic Paris institution’s character.
I Struggle Where You Vacation
Another RYOT production, I Struggle Where You Vacation examines the effects of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis on the country’s inhabitants. With a bleak but hopeful tone, the documentary short shows that virtual reality can be used to provide perspective on complex issues.
A History of Cuban Dance
This live action short was filmed on location in Cuba and follows a troupe of traditional Cuban dancers through the various dance forms that form their heritage. It’s a warts-and-all look at Cuban culture that literally puts the viewer in the center of raucous celebrations of freedom in a country undergoing unprecedented changes.
The North Face: Nepal
Many brands have already jumped on the virtual reality bandwagon, but The North Face seems to be approaching virtual reality in an especially smart manner.
Here, a documentary crew follows around one of The North Face’s top climbers while he ruminates on his experiences and love of Nepal as a climbing destination.
Pilgrimage: A 21st-Century Journey to Mecca and Medina
This video from The New York Times photographer Luca Locatelli brings the viewer to Mecca and Medina earlier this year during an umrah pilgrimage. The video leverages 360 degree video to put the viewer right in the center of a singular travel experience.
Ascape is a virtual reality content app for iOS and Android that uses a slick interface to encourage travel discovery through 360 degree photos and video. It’s the only travel-related app we could find that actually adds a sense of fun to the process of scrolling through long lists of virtual reality content.