GO­ING VIR­TUAL

Thomas Hoger, Co-Owner of 3spin, a vir­tual con­tent pro­ducer, dis­cusses the value of vir­tual re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy for in­flight en­ter­tain­ment

Aviation Business - - CONTENTS -

3spin’s Thomas Hoger dis­cusses the value of vir­tual re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy for IFE

AVB: Aside from Lufthansa, are there any other air­lines that you’re work­ing with on VR tech?

Thomas Hoger: We are also work­ing with Aus­trian, SWISS and Eurow­ings which are part of the Lufthansa Group.

AVB: In what ways are air­lines ex­plor­ing VR tech­nol­ogy as an al­ter­na­tive to more tra­di­tional in­flight en­ter­tain­ment sys­tems? TH:

Vir­tual Re­al­ity al­lows pas­sen­gers to ex­pand their vis­ual space vir­tu­ally and ex­pe­ri­ence things other­wise im­pos­si­ble on a plane. VR pro­vides users with a more im­mer­sive kind of en­ter­tain­ment. Lufthansa cur­rently of­fers two kinds of ex­pe­ri­ences.

The first is an al­ready rolled-out app called “Lufthansa VR”. Pas­sen­gers can down­load the app on var­i­ous app stores and take it on the plane us­ing their own head­set — with this app users can en­joy cu­rated 360° des­ti­na­tions and sto­ries.

The sec­ond ex­pe­ri­ence is a pro­to­type called “VR Mov­ing Map” which we have de­vel­oped to­gether with the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence team. It is ex­clu­sively avail­able for test­ing on se­lected flights from Frank­furt to Dubai — this app dis­plays the land­scape un­der­neath the plane in 3D with the pos­si­bil­ity to vir­tu­ally zoom into places to ex­plore them fur­ther.

AVB: What would you say are the cur­rent lim­i­ta­tions as­so­ci­ated with the util­i­sa­tion of VR in the air?

TH: VR con­tent data is of­ten quite large and there­fore dif­fi­cult to ac­cess while on the plane. Also, pas­sen­gers need to stay aware of their sur­round­ings, for ex­am­ple in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, when the ser­vice be­gins or when the plane leaves the cruis­ing al­ti­tude. These are all things a stan­dard VR so­lu­tion does not pro­vide.

How­ever, we have solved these chal­lenges with our part­ner Lufthansa Sys­tems. We are able to store VR con­tent on an on­board server and we can tap into the pas­sen­ger an­nounce­ment sys­tem to in­form users about the up­com­ing ser­vice.

Also, we can de­ac­ti­vate the ex­pe­ri­ence or warn pas­sen­gers in case of emer­gen­cies. Apart from that, some users wish for lighter VR head­sets in gen­eral while main­tain­ing the im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence — this is some­thing which will be solved over time.

AVB: What is some the con­tent that you’ve been work­ing on that you have found works well with pas­sen­gers?

TH: Our re­search has shown that pas­sen­gers like to watch movies in a 360° en­vi­ron­ment. In ad­di­tion, they like to ex­plore the land­scape un­der­neath the plane, which is some­times im­pos­si­ble in re­al­ity as it may be night time or cloudy. Also, pas­sen­gers en­joyed re­lax­ing con­tent. VR has the abil­ity to sim­u­late a cinema en­vi­ron­ment, it can vir­tu­ally en­large win­dows and make clouds see-through and pas­sen­gers can “beam” them­selves to a nice beach des­ti­na­tion to lis­ten to the waves.

AVB: Is there any type of cus­tomi­sa­tion/vari­a­tion in the con­tent, de­pend­ing on which re­gion a par­tic­u­lar flight might be head­ing to, or is just stan­dard across all flights?

TH: I per­son­ally pre­fer us­ing VR on mid- and long-haul flights as the time frame for in­flight en­ter­tain­ment, in gen­eral, is very nar­row on short flights. Con­tent may vary on dif­fer­ent routes. Our VR Mov­ing Map cur­rently works best when fly­ing over land and cities which can be ex­plored.

On flights which go mainly over wa­ter, there is seem­ingly not much to dis­cover — how­ever, an ex­pe­ri­ence which in­vites users to ex­plore the world be­neath the ocean sur­face can also be ap­peal­ing and quite ed­u­ca­tional too.

AVB: Over the next few years, how do you see VR tech­nol­ogy and its con­tent con­tin­u­ing to evolve in terms of the cabin ex­pe­ri­ence on air­craft?

TH: Even­tu­ally head­sets will be­come cheaper, lighter and more com­fort­able in the fu­ture which will fur­ther im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence. In ad­di­tion, I ex­pect VR and AR head­sets to merge into all-in-one de­vices at some point. This will give us ad­di­tional pos­si­bil­i­ties like switch­ing seam­lessly from one to the other — this means a pas­sen­ger could sit in a 3D cinema and sud­denly make the cinema room disappear when the on­board ser­vice be­gins while keep­ing a huge vir­tual screen in front of him.

Thomas Hoger, Co-Owner of 3spin.

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