Digital virtual reality content is being trialled for the first time by Thomas Cook at a new concept store at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.
Customers will be able to ‘enter’ a virtual world where they can experience a 360 degree, stereoscopic tour of one of the company’s Sentido resorts as well as the in-flight experience from Thomas Cook Airlines.
The first pilot will see customers enjoy a virtual tour on a developer’s version of Oculus Rift, a head mounted virtual reality 3D display, which features an ultra-wide field of view and low latency head tracking.
The headset combined with the newly developed application will translate head and motion movements across to the virtual world as customers explore the resort, while bespoke audio and even the smell of a Sentido fragrance complete the experience.
With Oculus primed to transform the retail experience, Cook claims virtual reality will allow customers to take a sneak peek into the future of the high street travel agent.
The group’s digital advisory board chairman John Straw said: “The technology advancements in virtual reality over the last 18 months have made it a real contender for playing a key role in changing the way we can showcase experience-based products to our customers, especially in the high street environment.
“We have a roadmap to move forwards into more testing which looks at how we integrate innovative content into a virtual experience for our customers across Europe.”
Future plans include offering customers the ability to experience New York City with Oculus later this year, tying in with the company’s strategic partnership with BrandUSA promoting America’s ‘Great Outdoors’ as well as Cook’s new US flights.
Joanna Wild, managing director of the Thomas Cook and The Co-operative retail network, claimed: “This trial is an industry first which, using developing technologies, demonstrates our ambition to leverage digital advancements to further improve the customer experience – in this instance to enhance what our customers experience in retail today and in the years to come.”