Airbnb is replacing the guest book with augmented reality

Airbnb’s mock-up of AR in its app.
Airbnb’s mock-up of AR in its app.
Image: Airbnb
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Airbnb announced today (Dec.11) that it’s experimenting with augmented- and virtual-reality technologies to enhance customers’ travel experiences.

The company showed off some simple prototype ideas in a blog post, detailing how VR could be used to explore apartments that customers may want to rent, from the comfort of their own homes. Hosts could scan  apartments or houses to create 360-degree images that potential customers could view on smartphones or VR headsets.

It also envisioned an augmented-reality system where hosts could leave notes and instructions to their guests as they move through their apartment, especially if their house’s setup is unusual. AR signposts in the Airbnb app could help guide guests through anything confusing more efficiently than the instructions hosts often leave for their guests.

“It can also be stressful when someone doesn’t know how to unlock the door or turn on the hot water for a shower, or when they’re hopelessly lost and everything is in a foreign language,” the company said. “Just think how welcome pulling up a mobile device to get directions to the coffee mugs will be first thing in the morning. Or, instant translations on how to work that German thermostat.”

This announcement, which doesn’t give a timeframe for when users are likely to see any of this sort of technology in Airbnb’s apps, comes nearly six months after a near-identical concept for an augmented-reality Airbnb app was shared widely around the web. Then again, it’s a lot more difficult to actually put something like this into practice than it is to build it in concept—you need to integrate the technology into your app, as well as educate and encourage all your hosts to actually use the functionality.

After the initial hype around the potential of AR apps this summer following Apple and Google releases of technology to make building these sorts of apps easier, there haven’t been too many useful real-world applications yet. Perhaps Airbnb can show that the hype was warranted.