A new virtual reality service to be tested by KDDI Corp. may allow tourists to visit and shop at locations abroad without leaving Japan, the cellphone carrier said Thursday.

The Sync Travel service will trial real-time remote overseas travel tours via VR headsets, with the first trials starting next month.

Current VR tours allow viewers to watch recorded images of tourist spots through VR headsets, but “the biggest appeal of the new service is that it is a real-time service with two-way communication,” said Yoichi Tsukamoto, director of digital marketing at KDDI, during a news conference in Tokyo’s Roppongi district.

Sync Travel will pair VR tourists with human guides who are physically located at designated travel locations, wearing a 360-degree camera. The guides shoot a 360-degree image in real-time that tourists then receive on their headset, so that the users can feel as though they’re present.

The VR tourists will also be able to hear audio from the overseas location.

In turn, VR tourists can be seen on a special monitor, letting guides and tourists communicate with each other and with locals.

KDDI said that the travelers will be able to take pictures of what they are seeing and shop at the stores where the guides go. The products they buy will be sent to Japan subsequently.

Remote travel tours of London, Bangkok and Sydney will be held on Nov. 3 and 4 at a specially prepared venue in Tokyo’s Omotesando district. There are reservation slots for 28 tourists.

Each tour will cost ¥1,980 for about 15 minutes. KDDI is partnering with Navitime Japan Co., a Tokyo-based firm that makes navigation apps and provides travel services.

Asked if KDDI is planning to provide the remote travel tours as a business, Tsukamoto said it’s still undecided, as KDDI wants to gage people’s reactions first.

He also cited technical hurdles. For instance, the quality of mobile network infrastructure is different depending on the country, and this affects whether they are fast enough to smoothly transmit the large amounts of data involved.

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