here is the original conversation (with permission from Violaine)
-Do you think eTourism can «take advantage» of the coronavirus (and the fear to travel associated with) and become more popular in the next few months-weeks, etc?
Universities are already switching courses to online content, businesses are moving to teleconferencing, but eTourism is likely to be much slower, in part because there are not many well-known applications, yet.
Apart from surfing via websites, the increasing affordability and usability of head-mounted displays (HMDs)for virtual reality will I think consolidate their hold at least on gaming consoles. The generation of gaming consoles such as PlayStation 5, promise highly impressive graphics and they already make VR equipment. Would somebody buy a 400 US dollar headset though to attach to their desktop PC or powerful laptop, for eTourism? I don’t think the market is that strong, yet. What might happen is augmented reality tourism, where you use a specialist gaming console such as the PlayStation 2 (https://www.t3.com/au/news/sony-playstation-vr-2-psvr-2-release-date) to virtually visit destinations and see either yourself and friends in the virtual setting, or project parts of the virtual experience onto part of your real-world surroundings. This is all highly speculative, but I think AR and VR and MR (Mixed Reality) are merging.
-How common it is in 2019? Will it become more widespread? How?
Ideally 2019 is the year we really try to build content, but we also need to build more standardized content infrastructures and standards, so we don’t just develop projects for one type of headset (which could quickly be superseded, or worse, not supported, in the near future).
-Can Virtual reality in tourism replace real experiences?
You can already use VR to travel to places you aren’t likely to visit in the real world (like an astronaut’s shuttle or Antarctica), the real goldmine is developing augmented or enhanced experiences that you would not find in the real world as it exists now, or to overlay information onto the experience in such a way that the experience is still unique and meaningful. You may have seen this: https://theconversation.com/why-virtual-reality-cannot-match-the-real-thing-92035
I don’t agree with the author, why even try to compete with the existing site, object or event? Why not allow people to explore experiences and interpretations from different points of view? Why not give them different affordances so they can some insight into a life lived differently? Or an imagination of the past present or future rich and involving enough to be considered a new world?
-What are the best usage of Virtual reality in tourism: is it to allow us to travel without leaving the comfort of our house, or add some special experiences to a visit to a museum, national park, etc?
My research is into cultural heritage, and the more difficult aspect is the creation of special experiences, that people can collaboratively enjoy, and takes on special meaning because of the setting.
I strongly believe that more open but collaborative experiences will prove more meaningful and satisfying than polished but single-person experiences. What we don’t often have yet, though, are rich and powerful multiple participant experiences. Amusement parks come close, but seldom allow the experience to be captured and reshared, nor do they usually add to our experience of real-world places.
My PhD was funded by the Australian Research Council and Lonely Planet to explore internet tourism in 3D nearly 20 years ago, and I explored how different types of interaction afforded cultural learning, but also what engaged people and was memorable. The gamers completed most tasks and most quickly, but they did not necessarily remember the content! So it also depends on the user and what they expect to find. I think another rich avenue is augmented reality tourism, as it can filter out, be more responsive, more accessible via phones, and enhances the world already there rather than try to compete with it. Exertion devices, physical trainers etc. tied to virtual tourism equipment also has appeal for our more sedentary and, for some, quarantined lives: https://news.theceomagazine.com/lifestyle/health/sydney-university-virtual-reality/
-How difficult is it to produce a good virtual reality touristic experience? (is it expensive? technologically difficult?)
I think it is a piece of string question. If you want a sense of rich spatial immersion, that is one thing. A native form of interaction (seeing and moving your hands in VR) is already a possibility, and there are new devices on the way to simulate walking: https://medium.com/@infiniwalk/real-unlimited-locomotion-in-virtual-reality-changes-everything-ce0a5bf8bffc
There are also privacy issues, especially if the VR headset connects via an external camera, the internet, your phone and social media or connects to biofeedback devices, Facebook for example, owns Oculus: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/the-hidden-risk-of-virtual-reality-and-what-to-do-about-it/ and also https://www.theverge.com/2018/4/9/17206650/oculus-facebook-vr-user-data-mining-privacy-policy-advertising plus https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-quest-camera-privacy-rift-s-facebook/
The eye-tracking feature of head mounted displays is exciting, and HMDs are still increasingly cheaper, better, and more comfortable. But apart from promising interaction, powerful displays, and still-costly but more sophisticated interfaces, I think we still have major gaps in meaningful entertainment and eLearning: https://www.cnet.com/news/eye-tracking-is-the-next-phase-for-vr-ready-or-not/
-How to familiarize with eTourism? Is it hard (or expensive?) to follow the technology (Will someone have to buy a new device every year? is the technology compatible from one provider or cie to the other?)
You can buy an Oculus Quest now that is comfortable with reasonable resolution, that provides surround panoramas and 3D movies and games. Much VR is created in the Unity or Unreal game engines, but yes the more sophisticated headsets (like the Mixed Reality Microsoft HoloLens, which does not create Holograms) seem to last 1-2 years, if we are lucky. These headsets have to hit the market so quickly, many develop issues that are not apparently obvious: