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Marriott wants you to vacation on a virtual beach

Source: Marriott Hotels
Marriott Hotels is betting the future of travel will be, at least in part, virtual.
The hotel brand is rolling out the Oculus Rift technology at select hotel locations to enable guests to virtually explore the black sand beaches of Hawaii or the city of London. 
But to make the experience more immersive, Marriott is taking things one step further by adding in sensory elements such as heat, wind and mist.
The program works like this: A person stands in a phone-booth like structure dubbed the Teleporter, puts on the Oculus Rift virtual headset and wireless headphones, and is then "teleported" to the destination.
The Teleporter has built in 4-D technology that makes it so the user physically feels different parts of the environment, such as temperature and moisture. 
While Marriott claims this is the first time these technologies are being applied for a travel experience, the idea of using virtual reality for travel is nothing new. 
In June, Second Life CEO Philip Rosedale said at the Singularity Finance Conference that it won't be too long before people actually purchase a virtual reality (VR) property so that they can visit it anytime they want. 
Given how much momentum there's been in the VR space this year, Rosedale's prediction may not be too far fetched.
In March Facebook shelled out $2 billion to purchase Oculus Rift's technology. And in June Google revealed Carboard, its own open-source mobile-powered virtual reality headset. Samsung recently rolled out its Gear VR headset, which is also powered by a smartphone (specifically the Galaxy Note 4), but it has tapped Oculus Rift to handle the software.
While it's become the norm for tech giants to jump into the VR space to grow their gaming and entertainment ambitions, a traditional hospitality company like Marriott Hotels may seem like an odd fit to be using the technology.
But the company sees the virtual world as a big opportunity to breathe new life into its brand and possibly even spur new business.
"It's part of our transformation message," said Michael Dail, the vice president of brand marketing for Marriott Hotels. "This isn't the Marriott you once thought of."
Dail said that while a long-term VR strategy hasn't been determined for the company, the possibilities are endless.
For example, if someone is planning a vacation, they could use VR technology to check out different destinations before booking a trip, Dail said. It could also be used in hotels to transport guests to new locations, he added.
"It can inspire their decision of where they want to go and it could also be used to enhance their stay," Dail said.
Marriott is kicking off its virtual travel experience Thursday at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, but the Teleporters will be traveling through November at select locations around the country.
"We can be disrupted to ourselves," Dail said. "We want to take things to the next level and we are thinking ahead about the future of travel."

9 best places to camp in the US

  • Flick/Jeff P
If you’re a regular camper, you probably have a few favorite spots your family returns to. But if you’re new to camping – or looking to point your compass in a different direction – you’re likely to find a few new family-friendly destinations in the list below.
Whether you prefer being up in the mountains, down on the beach or something unique, these camping hotspots will have you getting back to nature in no time.
  • 1. Apgar Campground

    Flick/Jeff P
    In the Western United States, head for Apgar Campground, the largest campground in Glacier National Park. Nestled in a pine forest, you’ll see mountain peaks just beyond glacier-fed Lake McDonald. The campground accommodates both tent and RV campers but does not take reservations. Family-friendly campground activities include boat rentals, horseback rides, and public bus tours along Going-to-the-Sun Road which offers some of the most incredible mountainside views.
  • 2. Baxter State Park

    For tranquil mountain scenery in the Eastern US, consider camping at Baxter State Park near Moosehead Lake in Kokodjo, Maine. Campers can choose to sleep in tents, RVs or cabins within sight of Mount Katahdin. Within the park visitors can enjoy swimming, boating, and wildlife sightings, as well as evening programs in the summer.
  • 3. Palo Duro Canyon

    Flickr/Todd Shoemake
    While the center of the US may not have mountains, you can find a few canyons, with the best camping to be found in Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. A switch-back road carries you to the base of the canyon where orange and white striped ‘Spanish skirts’ rise behind the campsites. You’ll have your choice of camping experience; from primitive campsites and RV sites to stone cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. Hiking and mountain biking are popular with campers, as is the outdoor musical drama ‘Texas,' performed evenings June- August.
  • 4. Nehalem Bay State Park

    Flickr/Todd Fahrner
    For spectacular Pacific Coast camping, head to Nehalem Bay State Park in Oregon, where rolling sand dunes separate you from the beach. Campsites have electricity and water while yurts are available for those who need a solid roof over their heads. Miles of beach offer endless water activities, while hiking trails and a playground are available if you tire of splashy fun.
  • 5. Assateague Island National Seashore

    On the Atlantic coast, the Assateague Island National Seashore offers a memorable family camping experience. Tent and RV camping is just feet from the ocean, but no hook ups means you’ll want to arrive prepared. Water activities include swimming, surfing, and canoeing, but don’t forget to take time to see the seashore’s famed ‘wild horses’ and collect some shells. For truly fresh seafood, try crabbing or clamming in the surrounding bays.
  • 6. Gulf Islands National Seashore

    To enjoy the white sand beaches and clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, venture to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Primitive camping is allowed on many of the islands, but be sure to know the rules in place to protect wildlife. The Fort Pickens Campground on Santa Rosa Island is accessible by bridge and can accommodate RVs. Just steps from the seashore, campers enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and boating as well as the historic sites on the inland.
  • 7. Ingalls Homestead

    Spend the night in a covered wagon at the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, South Dakota. Experience life on the prairie at the homestead made famous in the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Spend your morning helping with chores in the house or barn and your afternoon exploring the tall prairie grasses. You’ll likely have a friendly kitten or two visit your wagon in the evenings, drawn by the smell of food cooked over a campfire. RV hookups and tent camping are also available.
  • 8. Devil’s Tower KOA

    Devil's Tower KOA
    Is there intelligent life out there? Fans of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” will want to camp at Devil’s Tower KOA, where the classic movie was filmed in 1977. While movie fans enjoy the nightly showing of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, those who are more interested in life on this planet will appreciate the evening hayride with sightings of deer, fox, coyote, bald eagles, and other animals. Camping cabins are available, and the on-site pool and playground up the happiness quotient.
  • 9. Crater of Diamonds State Park

    If you’ve ever dreamed of buried treasure, Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas should be on your radar. It’s “finders keepers” at this park – any diamonds, semi-precious stones, rocks, or minerals you find are yours to keep. No diamond hunting equipment? No worries! You can rent it on site. If digging for diamonds get too hot, take a break in the adjacent Diamond Springs water park. The tree shaded campsite in the park offers RV and tent camping for gem seekers.
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