Dial up a virtual world at Upper Street ‘Teleport’ box
14 February, 2020 — By Danny Halpin
Jonathan Foo and Rachel Lee outside their Teleport box in Upper Street
A VIRTUAL reality (VR) headset has turned a red telephone box on Islington’s Upper Street into a window to Scotland.
Partners Jonathan Foo and Rachel Lee converted the disused phone box as a way for Londoners to experience “the beautiful places” in the north of the UK.
Through the “Teleport”, as the phone box has been rebranded, users can see and hear unfiltered scenes from locations in Fife while sheltering from the street noise outside.
“The whole point of this is to make VR more accessible to the public,” said Ms Lee. “From our research, people don’t really use it for anything but gaming. Recently it has started to get into education or training but it has such great potential for tourism.”
The couple spent a week in Fife filming 15 to 20-second clips for the headset, with months of preparatory work reaching out to various tourist boards for funding, securing permission to film and restoring the phone box to a presentable standard.
“We want people to go out and spend money on the high street,” said Mr Foo. “In Morecambe, it is really struggling, lots of shops are closed. Maybe tourism can help.”
They also believe that Brexit and an increasing awareness of the carbon footprint of flying will help encourage more people to take “staycations”, although they recognise that the high cost of rail travel in the UK may be a limiting factor.
“Travel can be a big commitment, you can spend a lot of money travelling somewhere,” Ms Lee added. “You might want to do a preview of the area or get some ideas for where to go.”
Teleport currently has only one phone box fitted with a VR headset but the couple plan to open more, in airports and museums as well as on the street.