You know hotels: a bit of room service, maybe a choccie on the pillow case. But Marriott is a brand looking to go one better with its entertainment, now offering Samsung Gear VR delivered to your room for 24-hours of personal use under its VRoom Service moniker.
If, that is, you're a paying guest at its London Park Lane or New York Marquis hotels. We popped along to the London hotel to get a grasp of what it's all about and why, indeed, Marriott is investing time in virtual reality and new-age techie-tainment.
For those unfamiliar with Samsung Gear VR: it's an Oculus-powered virtual reality headset that, in this Marriott instance, uses a Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone plugged into its front for untethered use (unlike Oculus and other systems where you're physically tethered into a power supply). Once strapped in via the adjustable Velcro bands you can look around as if in a virtual world, utilising the buttons and touch pad to the side of the headset to control proceedings.
And when we reviewed the first-gen Gear VR back at the end of January this year we didn't like it much. Sure, untethered use is a plus point, but the general lack of content was and is an issue.
It seems that Samsung knows this and is looking to partner with brands such as Marriott to push its hardware concept. As Marriott's guest base might not be atypical of potential virtual reality users, it seems a logical opportunity. No need to feel self conscious as you faff around while people watch you strap a screen to your face when in the comfort of your hotel room.
Marriott's take is all about travel, with its VRoom Service plugging guests into a trio of "VR Postcards" allowing stationary exploration about one of three cities. At the time of writing that's the Andes Mountains in Chile, an ice cream shop in Rwanda, and on the streets of Beijing, China.
We sat and listened to a man at an outdoor table describing the wonders of Beijing, taking the opportunity to twist and turn our head to take in the 360-degree virtual surroundings. It's a good showcase for what virtual reality can do at its simplest, the kind of introduction that a VR virgin might find good fun.
But that's it. The VR Postcards is the focus of the VRoom Service, with all instructions on the hand-delivered box pointing to how to use this Marriott content alone. Unless, that is, you know how Samsung Gear VR works and jump back to the homescreen where it's possible to download additional content and demos via Wi-Fi. We feel that a batch of gaming and additional content should be downloaded by default by Marriott for users to explore beyond, but that wasn't the case in our demo.
Stay at the London Marriott Park Lane (where there are 50 units) or the New York Marriott Marquis (where there are 200 units) where the VRoom Service experience is available for a two week trial (through 28 September 2015). Guests will have to sign a damage waiver to participate. It's a good opportunity to burst your VR bubble and shows a brand thinking outside of the typical box, even if it's not the world's best VR experience (HTC Vive takes that crown).