Skip to main content

To lure millennials, Residence Inn uses booze, food trucks, and augmented reality

residence inn blippar bring augmented reality to hotels mix 1294
Augmented reality disguised as social gathering. Residence Inn's Mix combines food trucks, drinks, and mobile-based augmented reality from Blippar to create an experience that appeals to tech-savvy millennials. At least, that's the aim. Neil Matsumoto/Digital Trends
Marketing to millennials is a tough business and Residence Inn knows how important the 18-34-year-old demographic is. So the hotel chain, which is part of the Marriott International group, is targeting young travelers with things they currently care about –food trucks and their phones.

“Younger travelers want variety and sometimes want to relax and stay in rather than fight their way into the trendiest bar or restaurant in the city,” says Diane Mayer, Residence Inn Vice President and Global Brand Manager. “Our research found that more than half of frequent business travelers are looking for something to do without needing to leave the hotel on long stays. They want to meet others and experience the local area without the hassle of always leaving the hotel to do it – so we’re bringing local to them.”

Mix It Up at Residence Inn

To keep these millennials on their premises, the company launched the Residence Inn Mix – a program of themed nights where guests socialize with one another at a fire pit and nosh at the hippest food trucks three nights a week. For the Mix, they’ve partnered with Blippar, a “visual discovery” app where users can use the app’s image recognition and augmented reality technology to mingle.

We recently attended the Mix launch at Residence Inn’s Redondo Beach location in California (the company launched the program at locations in Austin, Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C, but it’s now available nationwide), which included DJs and an epic food truck battle, although event themes will change. The technology aspect isn’t noticeable at first, and Residence Inn doesn’t outright advertise it. All guests received “blippable” beverage coasters allowing them to unlock interactive experiences including trivia games, customizable selfies, and suggested food and beer pairings. In order to unlock the features, users simply open the Blippar app, point it at the coaster, and then choose which feature you want to experience. If you’ve wondered how augmented reality is being used in hospitality, this is one example.

The AR experience

You’ve heard of virtual reality, but how about augmented reality? In a nutshell, augmented reality is seeing a live view of an environment where sound, video, or graphics are added, altering the environment in real time. A simple way to explain the difference between virtual and augmented reality is that VR essentially tries to put you in another reality (e.g., Oculus Rift) while AR recognizes the world around you and gives you additional content to enhance it. (Think Iron Man’s cool interactive helmet.)

There is already a wide array of uses for augmented reality, including architecture, education, emergency management, gaming, medicine, military, and much more. In the near future we might see a car windshield that will give you a warning of a potential hazard, or directions on the road in front of you. It’s basically an overlay that you’re seeing on your screen, or in this case, your windshield. While there are practical purposes, companies are also looking into AR to bring entertainment value – and monetize it. If Residence Inn guests and visitors enjoy using the technology, it could mean repeat business or more money spent on food and drink.


With Blippar, the app (for iOS, Android or Windows Phone) uses your mobile device and uses two technologies – image recognition and augmented reality. “Our technology is basically reading the dynamic information,” explains Blippar Vice President Patrick Aluise. “Once it recognizes the colors and shapes within an image or an object, it will deliver an augmented reality experience or an enriched media experience.”

“Once Blipper recognizes the colors and shapes of an object, it will deliver an augmented reality experience.”

At the moment, Blippar is limited to only recognizing objects with companies and organizations Blippar has partnerships with (for example, the company is working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art to add mobile-based AR experiences to how visitors view artwork).

“The way we built the company was through branding with companies, and everything we’ve done from the beginning until now has been custom created by our creative and development team,” Aluise explains. Along with the Residence Inn, other successful Blippar campaigns include Anheuser-Busch, General Mills, Heinz, IBM, Pepsi, Vogue Germany – just to name a few.

Although the app is mainly used for marketing purposes, Blippar is launching their new self-publishing tool, Blippbuilder, that will allow any brand, media company, or creative agency the ability to translate all of their physical properties (print ads, billboards, packaging, etc.) into interactive augmented reality campaigns.

Once unlocked, users can use AR for things like making postcards.
Once unlocked, users can use AR for things like making postcards. Image used with permission by copyright holder

According to Aluise, the biggest challenge for Blippar in the future will be awareness. “We’re more than an app but on some level we have to think like an app, which is getting more people to use it multiple times a day,” he explains. “We hope to see people blipping their cereal box in the morning, blipping their Subway card to see what the upcoming schedules are, blipping out of the newspaper to get the news feed beyond the static news – that kind of thing.”

Experimental technologies in hospitality

Residence Inn’s Mix isn’t the first time new technology is being trialed in hotels. Sister company, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, continuously experiments with new tech concepts. Last year, Marriott employed virtual reality and the Oculus Rift to create a virtual travel experience. There’s no guarantee they’ll be successes, but these programs have a similar goal: how to get today’s tech-savvy hotel guests – millennials in particular – to stay at their properties.

Editors' Recommendations

Neil Matsumoto
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Neil Matsumoto is the former editor of HDVideoPro and ICG Magazine. He is also a filmmaker and photographer.
Volvo wants to use augmented reality tech to help design future cars
Volvo augmented reality

Designing a new car typically involves long hours staring at a computer screen, then even more time spent shaping clay models and interior mockups. Volvo and Varjo, a Finnish developer of augmented-reality headsets, want to inject more tech into the process. The two companies have created what they call a "world's first mixed reality approach" to car development.

Automakers like Ford and Nissan have used virtual-reality headsets to let designers work on cars digitally, but Volvo is taking things a step further. The Swedish automaker claims testers can wear one of Varjo's headsets while driving a real car, overlaying virtual elements on top of what the driver actually sees. This allows designers and engineers to evaluate new features digitally, saving time in the development process, Volvo claims.

Read more
Google’s new $999 augmented reality smartglasses are ready for business
google glass enterprise edition 2 product photography of the wearable

Google unveiled Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2, a new version of its business-focused Google Glass wearable, on Monday, May 20. It ships with a faster processor, an updated camera and a $999 price tag. Similar to its predecessor, the new smartglasses are being marketed for the corporate user and are not available for the general consumer.

The new Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform which is designed specifically for augmented and virtual reality applications. According to Google, the new quad-core 1.7 GHz CPU processor is a"significantly more powerful" than the Intel Atom SoC in the previous Google Glass Enterprise model. Not only will this deliver better performance, but it also will increase the usage time wearers can eke out of the 820mAh battery. A new USB-C port provides faster charge times so a user can spend more time wearing the glasses and less time charging them.

Read more
A Google patent hints at a new attempt at an augmented reality headset
google glass patent touchpad batteries woman

It looks like Google is considering taking more steps into augmented reality. The company is perhaps best known for the Google Glass AR glasses, but the days of Glass are long gone -- and Google could be looking to release something else. In fact, Google has been awarded a patent for a "head-worn augmented reality display."

The patent specifically notes the use of a device that can superimpose computer-generated content over real-world objects. Unfortunately, it doesn't get much more specific than that. The patent does mention the use of a frame and reflective surface, along with the fact that it has a microdisplay -- but that's something pretty much all augmented reality headsets would need.

Read more