February 26, 2018

Further East
5 -min. read

From drones to digital doctors, new technology is changing both how consumers experience travel and how brands create ever more rich and in-depth experiences. We delved into five devices that are affecting everything from how companies create travel content to the ways brands are overcoming communication barriers.


Pilot translation earpiece by Waverly Labs

Translation earpiece

Translation earpiece – photo courtesy of Waverly Labs Pilot

Travellers finding themselves lost in translation could soon be a thing of the past, as startup companies vie to create devices that remove the language barrier altogether. One of the most promising pieces of tech to emerge so far is Waverly Labs’ Pilot – a babel fish-style earpiece that promises to interpret conversations almost instantaneously, provided you’re chatting with someone wearing a partner device.

It’s a tall order, but one that potential buyers are keen to invest in, with over $4million of support raised by the company’s crowdfunding launch campaign. Costing less than an iPhone at $299, Pilot covers more than 15 languages and promises enough battery to get the wearer through an entire day. While the device does threaten to remove some of the charm of learning a language, it also offers an alternative to uncomfortable moments and allows owners to fully immerse themselves in local culture. For travel brands it also has enormous potential – from easing hotel check-in, to elevating the tour experience.

Pilot is still in pre-order stage, but early videos suggest that if you’re looking for a sci-fi-style universal translator, this could be the real deal. Hotels and tour operators take note: one day you might have your very own library of Pilots on hand.


DJI Spark drone


Drone – photo courtesy of DJI Spark

Forget holiday snapshots: these days, it’s all about the video. More specifically, it’s about how drones are completely changing travel campaigns, offering glorious new perspectives and ways of capturing amazing vistas in moving image.

Chinese brand DJI is fast conquering the market in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), particularly when it comes to easy-to-use devices that take care of all your film and photography needs. For the modest price of $499, its newly released Spark model fits the palm of a hand and doesn’t even require a controller – hand movements are enough to direct it.

Although drones might initially feel like a more impersonal approach to filmmaking, they’re also an opportunity to capture beautiful video with a minimal amount of equipment and take aerial shots that, in the past, might have been impossible to achieve. Their promise is such that travel company Black Tomato has even hired its own exclusive drone photographer and launched a series of Drone the World trips in locations that permit UAV filming.

Beyond polished campaigns, the Spark drone would work just as well for social media – an increasingly important way for travel brands to show off – thanks to its ability to connect directly to a smartphone to create quick, Instagram-ready edits.


Babylon Digital doctor app 

Babylon digital doctor app

Babylon digital doctor app – photo courtesy of Babylon

Illness when you’re far from home is a scary prospect – especially when it comes to navigating local doctors, hospitals and pharmacies. There’s also the whole language barrier, which can make trying to explain symptoms and decipher packaging particularly daunting. With payment plans from just £5 per month, Babylon sidesteps this, giving users instant access to UK doctors through text and video messaging, via a monthly subscription that works around the world. Prescriptions can be sent directly to a local pharmacy, or delivered to a hotel or apartment, and there’s even a doctor-accredited AI chatbot ready to dispense advice out-of-hours.

Although it may lack something of the human touch, Babylon is the next best thing for health-conscious travellers and an obvious recommendation for hotels and travel companies to be making. The brand has also recently announced a partnership with Columbus Direct, which will be integrating the app into its travel insurance – suggesting there’s potential for other travel brands to incorporate the app into their own offerings.


Google Lens, available on Android

Google Lens – courtesy of Google

Not just a search giant, Google is doing its best to become indispensable in all other areas of our lives, too. Google Assistant is a perfect example of this: available on Pixel smartphones, Android Wear smartwatches and a range of handsets running the Marshmallow or Nougat OS, it’s able to summon information, convey reminders and send messages all with a simple “OK Google” voice command.

Its new feature, Google Lens – due to launch later this year – goes a step further, acting as an all-knowing eyeball that functions through the medium of the phone camera. By pointing the lens at the surrounding environment, Google Lens can do everything from finding out what a nearby building is – perfect for architecture enthusiasts on vacation – to reading reviews for restaurants. While it might be removing some of the enjoyable mystery of travelling, it also carries huge potential – particularly for brands wanting to create better experiences for curious consumers. What better way for hotels and travel companies to give visitors insider knowledge (or even entice them towards their offering to begin with) than by embedding extra info into the augmented reality landscape?


Garmin VIRB 360 camera

VIRB 360 camera – courtesy of Garmin

There’s no question that brands have to step up their moving image content, as video continues to play a vital role for those considering trips. Travel films alone are responsible for some 100 million unique visits to YouTube each month, meaning that if companies want to impress they need to stand out from their competitors.

That’s where Garmin’s VIRB 360 camera steps in – retailing at $799, it’s one of a number of devices released that take video capture into entirely new dimensions. Video and images can be spherically recorded at some of the highest resolutions available to the consumer, while four microphones store 360-degree audio to really increase the immersive experience. The device can also be taken underwater, for those keen to take prospective travellers that little bit further.

The VIRB 360 has particular potential for brands with particularly adventurous offerings, with the opportunity to overlay extra stats, such as speed and distance travelled, and link to your other Garmin accessories to monitor heart rate. Due for release at the end of 2017, the VIRB 360 lets travel brands take their bragging rights up an extra notch.

Emma Tucker is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and visual culture. She has written for publications including Eye on Design, Dezeen, Creative Review, Grafik, The Pitch, The Spaces, Wrap and Riposte.