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Virtually there?

Passengers could soon be escaping to virtual worlds in flight, thanks to virtual reality headsets. Helen Massy-Beresford reports
 

Fasten your seatbelts and put on your virtual reality (VR) goggles – this new technology could soon change the inflight entertainment landscape beyond all recognition.

 

There are many ways VR could be used; from allowing passengers to be transported to a different environment, to immersing them in a 3D movie, says Paul Priestman, Designer and Chairman of PriestmanGoode design agency.

 

“VR in aviation is in its infancy, and it’s a really exciting time. We’ve been working on VR projects for a few years already and we’re definitely seeing an increase in interest from airlines,” Priestman adds.

 

VR can have applications for the aviation industry well before the passenger entertainment stage, says Luke Miles, Director of London-based design agency, New Territory. “What we’re finding really interesting, especially within transport, is how VR can help facilitate the design process and make it much more seamless,” says Miles. “With the Lifestyle cabin we worked on with Zodiac we created a 2.5m long virtual model you can experience as a viewer. We’re also working on other projects with airlines and manufacturers, building environments and using VR to take clients through them. With VR you can build your vision of what an aircraft can be, you can take people through that environment and then modify the experience whilst they’re in it.”

 

Priestman agrees: “We’ve been developing VR for our clients for a number of years now, using it extensively at the design and development stage. VR enables us to offer our clients multiple options and enhances the decision making process. Still images aren’t cutting it anymore. VR is an amazing tool to explain what the final design will look like, it allows clients to make informed decisions. You can make decisions about colours, for instance, almost right before their eyes, seeing what impact these changes have on the feel of the whole cabin. It saves both time and money for the client.”

 

Airlines, meanwhile, are dabbling in VR technology, both onboard and on the ground.

 

Qantas and Samsung Electronics Australia teamed up last year for a three-month trial of an entertainment service using Samsung VR technology. It gives customers a three dimensional experience in a 360° interactive format. The Samsung Gear VR headsets allowed First Class customers in lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, and passengers onboard some Airbus A380 services, to explore network destinations, films and new Qantas products through virtual reality.

 

“Overall, the virtual reality headsets were very popular with our customers and we are incorporating findings from the trial into our onboard entertainment strategy,” says a Qantas spokesperson.

 

Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, in partnership with Microsoft, has been using ‘Ida’ (Immersive Digital Adventure) to give potential passengers a virtual glimpse of its Upper Class service before they book. >>


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