TripAdvisor Adds Augmented Reality Virtual Tours to iPad App

I do a fair bit of travel with my regular day job and one of the things I hate is trying to find a good hotel or local restaurant when arriving in a new city.  We’re all used to hotel websites showing pictures that make their rooms look like the Taj Mahal but when you get there, you find the hotel is actually located in a bad neighborhood and looks more like the Bates motel. In an attempt to help travelers explore destinations before traveling, travel planning site TripAdvisor has added a new ‘Virtual Tours’ feature to their popular iPad app.

The new feature, which is exclusive to the iPad, allows customers to search for hotels, restaurants or other attractions and get a virtual overview of the destination before they go.  Once users locate a destination in the app, they simply tap the orange “Street View” button to get an augmented reality display of their travel destination.  The app superimposes travel information, such as hotels, restaurants or other travel places, on top of a 360 degree panoramic view of the destination.  The app leverages Google’s popular Street View mapping feature to provide the images and TripAdvisor travel data is used to provide relevant labels on top of the image.

The new feature is available for attractions, hotels and restaurants listed in TripAdvisor’s huge database.  Users can use Virtual Tours to explore an area around a travel destination before booking travel and arriving in the city.  Alternatively, travelers can use the “Near Me Now” feature to help locate hotels, restaurants and attractions close to their current position. This turns the app into the perfect mobile concierge when exploring a new city.

The Virtual Tour feature is sure to be a hit with travelers using their iPads while exploring and we love the idea of an augmented reality display.  Once the new iPad 2 is released, with its rumored dual cameras, augmented reality iPad apps should really begin to take off.  Apps will be able to mix realtime images from the camera with photos or text information pulled from an app or across the Internet, giving users an immersive heads-up display to explore places or products. We’re definitely anxious to see how TripAdvisor enhances their ‘Virtual Tour’ feature once the new iPad 2 is released.

The updated TripAdvisor app with ‘Virtual Tours’ is now available for free from the App Store.

About Bill: Contact me via Twitter: @PadGadgetBill