The long term future of augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) is one of persistence; it will no longer be something that we just dip into once in a while to play a game or make use of a helpful utility with our phones, but an integrated part of our bodies and therefore always on. (See: The Possibility of Augmented Reality Eyeballs)
You walk into the hotel lobby to check in. ID, yes here it is. Credit Card, no problem. No I won't have the breakfast thanks. Is the wifi code just my room number and last name? What time is the gym open until? Oh yes, I've been waiting to try Hilton's new galaxy experience. No thanks, I can manage my bag, it hovers.
With a blinking gesture to accept the installation the walls go black, and with a little adjustment you can see pin pricks of light off in the distance. The walk across the lobby feels like traveling at light speed and you enter the elevator in what seems to be the vicinity of a black hole. As the elevator descends into the underground levels, you seem to descend yourself closer and closer to the swirling vortex below the floor, your feet appearing to dangle. You feel silly for holding onto the rail a bit tighter than is really needed.
In your room your calendar pops up and takes its place opposite the bed where you like it, alongside your movie screen and photo stream. You reach for a beer from the minbar and space zips away into a little bouncing icon on the desk while the room is taken over a vodka commercial. Ok, you'll watch it to unlock the free sample bottle.
In the morning, space starts to brighten as the Sun emerges from behind the Earth, a true celestial sunrise "brought to you by Hilton". As you shower you float around the rings of Saturn, not recalling if high school science had ever pointed out that they are actually only a few feet thick. It's a calming experience and one that will bring you back to this Hilton time and time again to explore fully, after all, it's a big galaxy. Time to head out. "Please rate our new vodka before you exit your room".
This is an example of what I would consider to be an enhanced experience; we are taking the existing world around us and altering it to be more pleasurable or helpful for us.
Home Is Where the Heart Is
Let's consider a different type of augmentation, a scenario where home is always available to you at the blink of an eye.
It's been a long day and back in your room a notification appears to invite you to dinner time at home. Space disappears as you sit at the universal table in your hotel room and your kitchen appears, your kids fighting to sit next to you at their universal table.
How was school? What did you do? Yes, but what did you actually do today?! Post school day conversations never evolve. But there is something interesting to look at tonight. The wall behind you reveals Saturn again and you share the experience of dipping down through the rings and off to one of the many moons. Eat up!
As you all rise from the table, you say good night and dive back into somewhere deep in the Galaxy.
I love travel and I welcome augmentation with excitement and also some reluctance. It's hard enough today to find places to go where things are actually different. Everywhere seems so much the same; same chain stores, same chain restaurants. And AR / VR has the ability to make that even worse by bringing too much of our personal familiarity along for the ride.
Pushing forward through technological development, adding physical stimuli to our bodies from virtual environments, perhaps we will rarely use an augmented existence, but choose an entirely virtual one.
We will go more places than ever but never leave our homes
In the 2009 movie Surrogates, Bruce Willis is a cop at a time where humans live in isolation in the 'real world', and interact with each other through surrogate robots. To them the experience of being out and about in these robots is as real as being out without them. (It's not a bad movie if you want to watch it, but the trailer is enough to get a sense of what such a world would be like).
In a surrogate world, would you yourself ever go anywhere? If you lived in NYC and you wanted to visit London, could you not just plug into a surrogate there and open your eyes to arrive? The 'travel industry' per se would become more of a 'destination industry' or an 'experiences industry', the need to actually move would be eliminated.
(The feature image in this article is actually depicting a proposal to remove windows from the planes because it saves a crazy amount of fuel, and replace them with screens that could show the outside world. This could be quite as easily a 'screen' that exists in your personal vision alone, and could be different for every passenger.)