Expedia’s Virtual Reality Experience Takes Sick Children at St. Jude’s on Adventures around the World
Virtual Reality is the latest cool trend in town. It not only helps you view life from a new perspective, it also allows people who, for some reason or the other, can’t travel to visit the places they never dreamed we’d be able to see. Expedia, along with St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, recently partnered to build a virtual reality experience allowing sick kids to live out their wildest dreams.
Expedia have a longstanding relationship with St. Jude’s and, every year, the travel company asks users to donate their Expedia Rewards Points to St. Jude. Expedia Rewards Points are earned from travel booked through Expedia and are normally redeemed for travel. This year, the company decided to do something quite different with an initiative called “Dream Adventures,” an immersive virtual reality campaign that allowed Expedia to help the children at St. Jude’s to travel around the world. Expedia points can now be converted to a monetary value and donated to St. Jude as part of the Dream Adventures campaign.
Expedia’s Dream Adventures
Vic Walia, senior director of brand marketing at Expedia says: “The goal of the Dream Adventures initiative was to bring the joy of travel and exploration to children at St. Jude. We felt there was no better audience for this project than children with passionate imaginations and big dreams who were unable to actually travel.”
Expedia partnered with a creative agency, 180LA, and using virtual reality to create a 360-degree scene, they designed a fully interactive experience in which the children could explore their surroundings, direct the actions of the on-site Expedia employee and immerse themselves in the experience. Walia reports that virtual reality technology made the children feel like they had truly visited their dream destinations—a feeling that certainly would have been difficult, if not impossible through any other medium.
The VR Experience
The project, which included real-time interactions with the kids and Expedia employees (trekkers) who Expedia sent to the destinations, took about nine months to complete.
Pierre Janneau, creative director at 180LA, describes the experience thus: “The real-time interactions allowed the kids to converse with and literally experience the moment with the Expedia employees. They were able to talk, ask questions and build a unique bond. This had a profound effect on both parties.”
The use of virtual reality was the best way for the project to really bring these amazing destinations to the kids. Even though other types of virtual reality technology, such as VR goggles, could have worked just as well, according to Janneau, wearing headsets can be a bit jarring for children who are going through chemotherapy. The immersive 360 experiences therefore enabled them to enjoy the locations in a unique way tailored to their specific situation.
“We wanted the kids to feel like they have been transported to these places and VR technology was a big part of it,” Janneau continues. “Without VR, the experience and the connections these kids had with the Expedia employees wouldn’t have been as powerful.”
Awareness for St. Jude’s Children Hospital
According to Walia, the goal of Dream Adventures was to help these children explore the world, dive in the ocean, play with horses and monkeys and to, generally, have a joyful experience, in addition to raising awareness for St. Jude.
“We also want to leverage this program to drive awareness for St. Jude across the Expedia family and encourage our consumers to donate their Expedia+ rewards points directly to the hospital,” he says.
“The response from consumers and the Expedia community, in particular, has been tremendous and we are proud to have been able to work with our partners in this endeavor.”
As the virtual reality market continues to emerge, it’s exciting to witness how different brands and companies are able to utilize experiences in unique ways with positive results.