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Vacations of the future

Sep 05, 20164 mins
Data and Information SecuritySecurity

VR and AR were included in the picture Expedia painted of holidays of the future, but so were biometrics, smartphone apps and even RFID implants.

Not everyone gets Labor Day off as a holiday, but that doesn’t mean the majority of people not working have literally gone on vacation. In the future, people scheduled to work on holidays and those with the days off but not the means to go on an exotic vacation, they can pick any day to explore wonders such as the Amazon rainforest or white beaches of the Caribbean. At least, that is what Expedia claimed; by using virtual and augmented reality, people won’t even need to leave home to explore some of the world’s wonders.

If you really are not into the idea of a stay-at-home vacation, then VR and AR could also be used in a “try before you buy” vacation scenario. That tech might also be the answer to long-distance love affairs. Some futurists, such as Google’s Dr. Ray Kurweil, have predicted, “We will spend considerable time in virtual and augmented realities allowing us to visit with each other even if hundreds of miles apart. We’ll even be able to touch each other.”

But Expedia didn’t stop there, describing the holiday of the future as:

It’s the year 2035 and you’re sitting on-board a pilotless airliner, cruising across the Atlantic at a cool 3,000mph. The trolley service is a robot named Brenda – she speaks 100+ different languages and offers you an eclectic platter of food based on the dietary requirements in your electronic implant. Content with your 3D printed salad, you put your virtual reality headset back on and go for a pleasant coastal stroll across Ipanema beach.

Not everything about vacations in the future sounds sunny and bright; some of it sounds downright creepy.

For example, Expedia Worldwide Senior Vice President Gary Morrison makes it sound like big data and predictive travel booking algorithms will play a big part in making future vacations more personal. The booking process would supposedly be even better if “a predictive travel booking algorithm could access our online preferences, social media content, and even biometric information to find a package holiday that is tailored to our needs.”

Citing the Future Travel Experience (pdf), Expedia wrote that “by 2025 we can expect in-built electronic tags on all of our luggage, allowing us to drop them off at rail stations, hotels and other off-airport locations pre-flight.”

That might help at the airport, but only if “security zones” are “adapted so that ‘passenger-friendly ambience’ is created, instead of being ‘sterile’ and ‘prison-like’.” If you lose your passport in the future, no worries, since airports may do away with physical documentation and instead rely on smartphone apps and biometric recognition. No smartphone? No problem, as at least some futurists believe airports will allow you to use an RFID implant as a form of authentication.

In the future, you will leave the airport via a self-driving car to arrive at your hotel. Once you arrive at your destination, a smartphone app or biometrics may allow you to skip the hotel lobby waiting line and go directly to your room. Inside your room, a touchscreen “smart mirror” will display social media updates, news headlines which are important to you and email notifications.

The whole package could be paid for with bitcoin or another crypto-currency. Expedia is not the only booking company which currently accepts bitcoin, but not all bitcoin-purchased vacations have ended well for vacationers. Although a person is not as anonymous as they might believe when using bitcoin, what would be the point in even trying for some degree of vacation anonymity if everything else about you is tracked, predicted and tied to you via biometrics?

Expedia’s “holiday of the future” post is peppered with examples of some of the future tech already being tested at airports and hotels. Whether or not you consider it a “vacation,” you can already use VR to explore the Grand Canyon, Machu Picchu and a wide range of other locations.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.