Airbnb is developing virtual and augmented reality features to help guests find and navigate rental listings, the company announced on its blog today. Three-dimensional scans and 360-degree photos would allow users to get a better sense of a listing, and augmented reality overlays could help guests better understand the homes on a smaller scale once they’re in it. The company has been looking into VR to build trust between guests and hosts since last year, and this announcement confirming experiments and prototypes could mean a feature is coming soon.
It makes sense to take a look around a listing in VR before booking, but Airbnb also lists a few instances where augmented reality might be helpful during your trip. If you’re staying overseas and everything’s in a foreign language, it could be difficult to unlock the door, or figure out the thermostat or the hot water in the shower. It also lists a fun example of AR usefulness like “pulling up a mobile device to get directions to the coffee mugs ... first thing in the morning.” This is a problem that could easily be solved by just opening up a few cupboards and figuring it out, but I get what they’re saying.
Virtual tours have been around in the real estate industry for a while, and Airbnb hosts have been asking for a feature to integrate them into their own listings. While the VR technologies could be implemented by providing Airbnb hosts with 360-degree cameras, it might be harder to integrate the AR concept for individual listings. Since ARKit was released on iOS 11, we’ve seen some concepts of what an AR overlay for Airbnb listings might look like. It seems like a useful and worthwhile idea, but it might be a more difficult challenge for Airbnb to take on.
But until this is a reality, I’ll still be satisfied with charming hand-written binders with tips on the local sights and illustrations on how to figure out the thermostat.