Virtual tourism can offer new scope for travel industry: Study

New York: Virtual travel, using advanced mathematical techniques and combining live stream video with existing photos and videos of travel hotspots, could help revitalise an industry that has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, say, researchers, including one of Indian-origin.

The study, published in the journal Cell Patterns, suggests using data science to improve on existing television and internet-based tourism experiences.

Their technique involves measuring and then digitising the curvatures and angles of objects and the distances between them using drone footage, photos, and videos, to make virtual travel experiences more realistic for viewers and help revitalise the tourism industry.

They call this proposed technology LAPO or Live Streaming with Actual Proportionality of Objects. LAPO employs both information geometry – the measures of an object's curvatures, angles, and area – and conformal mapping, which uses the measures of angles between the curves of an object and accounts for the distance between objects, to make images of people, places, and things seem more real.

"This is about having a new kind of technology that uses advanced mathematical techniques to turn digitised data, captured live at a tourist site," said study author Arni S R Srinivasa Rao from the Augusta University in the US.

According to the researchers, the technology could help counter some of the pandemic's impact on the tourism industry and offer other advantages.

Those include its cost-effectiveness because virtual tourism would be cheaper; health safety because it can be done from the comfort of home; it saves time, eliminating travel times.

It's accessibility - tourism hotspots that are not routinely accessible to seniors or those with physical disabilities would be; it's safer and more secure and it requires no special equipment - a standard home computer with a graphics card and internet access is all that's needed to enjoy a "virtual trip."

"Virtual tourism (also) creates new employment opportunities for virtual tour guides, interpreters, drone pilots, videographers and photographers, as well as those building the new equipment for virtual tourism," the authors wrote.

"Next steps include looking for investors and partners in the hospitality, tourism and technology industries," they noted.

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