9 travel tech innovations that are almost too creepy to be real

Technology is revolutionising the travel industry, making it easier and cheaper to travel than ever before. 

From luggage that follows your every move to a robot-run hotel, we can hardly believe these innovations are real. Here are nine tech-y travel gadgets that are so ahead of the curve, they’re almost creepy.

3D/VR/AR Dining


Virtual reality dining brings all the taste and none of the calories. (Photo cred: :copyright: Kokiri Lab, Inc.)

Travellers can get a taste of tomorrow now that 3D printing, virtual reality, and augmented reality have made their way into kitchens around the world. Food Ink, the world’s first 3D printing, pop-up restaurant, delivers meals from pixel to plate. Food Ink has hosted a series of dinners in which all the food, utensils, and furniture are produced by 3D printing, where chefs use 3D printers to automate the process of creating intricate food designs. 

An increasing number of restaurants are turning to augmented reality to tempt diners with AR menus of mouthwatering 3D food. Using AR company Kabaq, restaurants can render their menus and dishes in augmented reality, which means diners can check out food items on the menu in 3D. Organic burger franchise Bareburger, which has locations in Germany, Japan, United Arab Emirates, and the United States, recently announced it will soon replace its paper menus with Augmented Reality menus, and diners will also be able to view realistic menu items via Facebook and Snapchat.

Tucking into a calorie-free dinner seems too good to be true, but the folks behind Project Nourished hope to soon offer a fanciful, calorie-free feast near you thanks to a fusion of molecular gastronomy and virtual reality. The culinary concept mimics the eating experience by combining mixed realities: virtual reality, aromatic diffusion, and auditory sensation. Diners wear a VR headset that alters the aesthetics of the food and sets the scene, a diffuser is used to dissipate the smell of the food, and a variety of other tools enhance the experience. While you can’t book a meal yet, the team periodically showcases its experiments and work around the world.

Ultra-fast transit

Hyperloop One will one day whisk passengers at freakishly fast speeds – up to 1,080 kilometers-per-hour (two to three times faster than high-speed rail and maglev trains and 10 to 15 times faster than traditional rail) – from origin to destination. Travellers board an aerodynamic vehicle that glides via electric propulsion through a low-pressure steel tube. Virgin, the company behind Hyperloop One, hopes to have the revolutionary transport operational by 2021. Faster than high-speed rail and maglev trains, the ultra-fast, below-ground transport system is driver-less, quiet, and energy efficient. Hyperloop One is anticipated to provide on-demand and direct travel, with no stops along the way. 

Robot rollaboard


No hands, no problem when you travel with robotic luggage (Photo cred: :copyright: Travelmate Robotics)

If you’ve always wanted a real-life version of R2D2, then this robotic rolling luggage may be for you. Travelmate is a robot suitcase that follows travellers and adjusts to their human companions’ speed via their smartphone. Worried someone might get in between you and your luggage? The Travelmate’s built-in sensors make the suitcase stop if someone steps in front of it. The coolest (and spookiest) part about this suitcase is that it acts like a robot, operating without a user’s input. There’s a built-in speaker, so one day your luggage may be able to talk to you, and, in the future, you may be able to talk back. The suitcase-robot is $1,099, but demand is so high, it takes up to 90 days for a suitcase to arrive.

Foldable car

Bosnian mechanical engineer Elvis Cero has created City, a collapsible car and brilliant cure for those who find themselves perennially looking for a parking spot. Reminiscent of a life-size Transformer toy, the lightweight aluminum, single-seat car has bicycle wheels and a battery that lasts up to five hours. When it’s time to park, the car folds into a wheeled suitcase in about three minutes.

Tiny real-time translator


Break down the language barrier with this instant translation system (Photo cred: :copyright:Waverly Labs)

Never get lost in translation again. The Pilot uses dual-noise cancelling microphones to capture speech, then translate that speech into one of 15 supported languages. The tiny earbud system breaks language barriers with its advanced digital signal processing that optimizes human speech, before passing it through a mobile app and a cloud translation engine, which can translate multiple languages at once. Not only is Pilot breaking down language barriers, but now anyone can eavesdrop on your conversation and understand what you are saying.

Go back in time

Time travel with TimeLooper, a mobile app that lets users travel back in time to iconic locations using a smartphone and TimeLooper’s augmented and virtual reality technologies. The immersive travelling experience takes throwback trips to historic and cultural sites by integrating moments from the past with the current physical environment via cinematographic storytelling and technology. Users can witness historic moments with their smartphones and optional cardboard headsets provided by historic sites and tour operators around the world. There are 50-plus time travelling experiences in London, New York and sites like Angkor Wat in Cambodia. New experiences in Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, and Malta are launching soon too. 

Communicate without words


Arnav Kapur, a researcher in the Fluid Interfaces group at MIT (Photo cred: Lorrie LeJeune, MIT)

At a loss for words? It’s okay, you might not ever have to speak again with AlterEgo, a wearable device that aims to combine humans and computers. While it does not read your mind, read your thoughts, or use telepathy, the system lets people silently communicate with machines by internally speaking or saying words in their head.  AlterEgo consists of bone-conduction headphones that transmit vibrations from bones in the face to the inner ear. Electrodes on the face and jaw pick up neuromuscular signals triggered by internal verbalizations. An academic research project that has been developed by the Fluid Interfaces group at the MIT Media Lab, AlterEgo can’t be purchased yet.

Robot-run hotel

Checking in is an adventure at the robot-run HENN NA HOTEL in Japan (Photo cred: HUISTEN BOSCH)

Henn na Hotel is the first hotel in the world staffed by robots. Yes, robots. Multi-lingual robots check guests in and out of the freakishly futuristic hotel, and guests can use facial recognition to unlock their guest rooms. The energy efficient guest rooms feature motion sensors that turn lights on and off and radiant panel air conditioning. Hotel amenities include a sundries shop and vending machines; there is no restaurant or room service at this no-frills hotel near Huis Ten Bosch, a popular amusement park in Sasebo, Japan. Room rates start at ¥15,200 per night for a standard room. If the idea of staying at a robot-run resort creeps you out, rest assured a few humans work there too.

Tech toilets

Travellers traversing Terminal 2 at London’s Heathrow Airport are likely to find some of the cleanest and smartest loos in the world. Embedded sensors count the number of people who use the washrooms. Cleaning staff are alerted after a certain number of people use the toilets, if amenities like soap and toilet tissue need replenishing, and if toilets are backed up. Additional data, like which loos are used most often and how long it takes for cleaners to arrive, are said to help the airport analyse trends. It’s easy to flush away the reassurance that the data collected is anonymous.

Which of these futuristic travel innovations would you most like to try? Let us know in the comments and start planning your next holiday with KAYAK.

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