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Virtual tourism could offer new opportunities for the travel industry, travelers

Revitalizing the travel industry.

In a new study, Dr. Arni S.R. Srinivasa Rao, a mathematical modeler and director of the medical school’s Laboratory for Theory and Mathematical Modeling, and co-author Dr. Steven Krantz, a professor of mathematics and statistics at Washington University, presented a new proposal for virtual travel. Their proposal suggests the use of data science to improve existing television and internet-based tourism experiences.

According to scientists, using advanced mathematical techniques and combining livestream videos with existing photographs and videos of travel hotspots could help revitalize an industry that has been devasted by the COVID pandemic.

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

The proposed technology is also known as LAPO, or Live Streaming with Actual Proportionality of Objects. LAPO utilizes 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 records for the distance between objects, to make pictures of people, places, and things appear to be real.

Corresponding author Rao said, “This is about having a new kind of technology that uses advanced mathematical techniques to turn digitized data, captured live at a tourist site, into more realistic photos and videos with more of a feel for the location than you would get watching a movie or documentary. When you see the Statue of Liberty, you stand on the Hudson River bank and look at it. When you watch a video of it, you can only see the object from one angle. When you measure and preserve multiple angles and digitize that in video form, you could visualize it from multiple angles. You would feel like you’re there while you’re sitting at home.”

“The technology could help mediate 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, eliminating risks like becoming a victim of a crime while traveling; 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, and those building the new equipment for virtual tourism.”

“People would pay for these experiences like they pay airlines, hotels, and tourist spots during regular travel,” Rao says. “The payments could go to each individual involved in creating the experience or to a company that creates the entire trip, for example.”

“Next steps include looking for investors and partners in the hospitality, tourism, and technology industries.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Arni S.R. Srinivasa Rao et al. Data Science for Virtual Tourism Using Cutting-Edge Visualizations: Information Geometry and Conformal Mapping. DOI: 10.1016/j.patter.2020.100067

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