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Summer 2022

Virginia Tech faculty and students take to the international stage to showcase emerging technologies reimagining travel and hospitality

Faculty and students from the Virginia Tech MSBA-Hospitality and Tourism Management (MSBA-HTM) Program, Technology-Enhanced Learning and Online Strategies (TLOS), and the Thinkabit Lab took to the international stage to showcase the latest hospitality industry technologies at the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (ICHRIE) Summer 2022 Conference on Aug. 3-6, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

ICHRIE is the nonprofit professional association that provides programs and services to continually improve the quality of global education, research, service and business operations in the hospitality and tourism industry.

MSBA-HTM Graduate Director and Professor Mahmood Khan, MSBA-HTM Program Coordinator Mary Richards, TLOS Distance Learning Specialist Jim Murphy, and Thinkabit Lab Faculty and Research Director Jim Egenrieder played instrumental roles in launching the conference’s Education and Innovation Center — an interactive showcase that offered attendees hands-on opportunities to test out emerging hospitality technologies.

Reimaging the travel experience, participants experienced hotels, restaurants, and the world’s top destinations without ever leaving the conference floor through a virtual reality Oculus headset, supported by TLOS’s Jim Murphy, TLOS students and MSBA-HTM students. Participants engaged with a smart mirror from the Thinkabit Lab, participated in many examples of IoT automation, including small Arduino shield and micro:bit Cyberbot robots, as well as a variety of other virtual experiences through Oculus headsets.

These activities spurred many discussions around the future of automation in the hospitality industry, with graduate students and faculty weighing in. Throughout the event, participants also mingled with Virginia Tech’s robot and interacted with MSBA-HTM graduate student Nora Almalki’s drone.

In staffing the Education and Innovation Center, graduate students from the MSBA-HTM Program and TLOS gained top-notch networking experience with hospitality industry leaders from around the globe. The students also assisted with registration, ushering guests to the keynote event, and helped coordinate the scientific poster sessions.