Ski holiday company Club Med have employed Dr Ian Pearson, who describes himself as a ‘Futurologist’, to look at ways in which the ski holiday may change in the 2030s and beyond.
Dr Pearson believes that virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and blended, mixed reality (XR) will converge with computer game technology, virtual world design and fabrications to create shared VR Resorts, holodeck style by the 2030s.
Writing in Club Med’s 7th annual ski report Dr Pearson says he believes will be a mixture of amazing natural scenery and the best of human and AI imagination.
“Any physical ski run could be enhanced by ‘virtuality’, using XR goggles or even active contact lenses to create fully immersive high-resolution 3D imagery,” the Club Med report states.
The report goes on to say that simulators will be able to generate the same experiences as real runs, manipulating the ‘ground’ under the skier as they ski over the virtual terrain, and using active skin connections to the nervous system to create sensations directly, generating a convincing full sensory experience.
As part of the report’s compilation Club Med also surveyed about 1,000 people and found that over a quarter of these expect skis that can change shape or friction under voice control, as well as electronic fabrics that can harvest and store solar power or change colour or thermal or shape properties.
Dr Pearson also anticipates that guests may also use VR to try out skiing or snowboarding at a new resort before they go. Some might be totally virtual using imaginary resorts, but some might link to real resorts and real runs, with real-time information recreating the same environment to make the experience as realistic as possible. With full links to the nervous system by the 2030s and into the brain by 2050, it will be almost indistinguishable from real life. Conversing with guests in a resort bar might be an excellent way of deciding whether to go to one resort or another, perhaps from the comfort of a VR suite.
Estelle Girardeau, Managing Director UK & Northern Europe at Club Med commented, “Human interaction remains a key part of the customer experience in the hospitality industry, however with developments of AI and VR and the role they might play for us in the future, coupled with the expansion plans we have as a business, we’ll be thinking about how we can better design our resorts to accommodate for these technological advancements alongside the work carried out by our G.Os.”
The good news is that rather than a move to virtual reality ski holidays spelling the death knell for conventional skiing, Dr Pearson believes that with VR making skiing accessible to more people the business will actually boom and more ski areas will need to be built to cope with demand. Fortunately Dr Pearson says that advances in snowmaking technology will counter any negative impact of climate change.