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Royal Caribbean drops us into an AR cruise

One of the world's biggest cruise lines introduces travel agents and press to its newest selling tool: A virtual walking tour of its cruise destinations using augmented reality on iPads.

SarahTewHS2012urbanSuare01.jpg
SarahTewHS2012urbanSuare01.jpg

Sarah Tew

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Guests sit in this surround-screen theatre to hear about the $900 million of investment Royal Caribbean is pumping into its ships and destinations.

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They're then led on a virtual tour through the ship's locations in this open-loft space in Pier 17 by South Street Seaport in Manhattan.

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We proceeded through a series of "portals," iPads in hand, and the mockups of the new destinations are revealed in AR.

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As you approach a portal, you'll see a wavy effect on the iPad screen.

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Each iPad is outfitted with a device so its exact location and direction can be monitored and synced with the visuals on the app.

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There are 60 of these devices around the ceiling.

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This program will be running for up to 150 guests at a time as they move through the space. 

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This is something of a first for an AR program, from what the designer told us.

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Different portals around the presentation have different themes, so you have an idea of what you're stepping into.

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CNET's Scott Stein pans around with his iPad, looking at a mockup of a Royal Caribbean cruise destination.

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I wonder what's through this portal? Sort of reminiscent of "Stargate," eh?

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Most of the portals lead to beaches, bars, pools and oceans. Nothing too crazy.

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Oh wait, I spoke too soon. Royal Caribbean is building "one of the world's biggest water parks."

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No idea what the deal is with this pirate ship.

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At one point in the tour, Scott got to go on a virtual balloon ride so he had a bird's-eye view of an island that Royal Caribbean is developing as a private resort.

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Once attendees are onboard with their HTC Vive VR headsets in place, the staff hits this start button.

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Whoa! Scott checks out the view from the virtual balloon...

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Guests won't be able to see each other in this demo, so hopefully they won't bump into one another as they explore the virtual space.

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After the tour concludes, attendees will be wined and dined, just as if they were on a real cruise.

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In the future it seems likely that these virtual demos will be brought to the public as a way of selling vacations directly. Or, dare I say, perhaps the cruises themselves will be virtual?

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