Fo­cus on: Vir­tual re­al­ity

Is vir­tual re­al­ity set to make an im­pact across the pas­sen­ger jour­ney? Ben­jamin Coren takes a look while tour­ing the Avi­a­tion Fes­ti­val, Lon­don

Onboard Hospitality - - Inside This Issue -

Vir­tual re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy is in­creas­ingly mak­ing its mark in the gam­ing, med­i­cal and mil­i­tary train­ing are­nas and now seems set to move in on the travel in­dus­try, on­board and in sales.

Dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion com­pany 3Spin is an in­dus­try fron­trun­ner, and co-owner Thomas Hoger told this year's Avi­a­tion Fes­ti­val in Lon­don just how ef­fec­tive a VR tool can be. He said: “We first be­gan work­ing with vir­tual re­al­ity at the ITB travel trade show. There were al­most 10,000 com­pa­nies there pro­mot­ing travel ex­pe­ri­ences yet al­most none of them could re­ally show first-hand how their prod­uct would be ex­pe­ri­enced. We worked with Ger­man car­rier, Lufthansa, to give visi­tors the chance to ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­ence the on­board prod­uct us­ing VR. With the head­sets on they could take a vir­tual tour of the air­craft.”

Lufthansa has since used VR as a sales tool, with rep­re­sen­ta­tives mak­ing use of it at the gate to sell cus­tomers up­grades. Hoger added: “Us­ing this tech­nol­ogy, Lufthansa has made 50% more sales of last-minute up­grades at the gate.”

At a re­cent Amer­i­can Air­lines me­dia launch of new air­port lounges, visi­tors could sim­i­larly pull on a head­set to take a look around the new air­port fa­cil­i­ties. And Air Canada is us­ing VR to sim­u­late the ex­pe­ri­ence of fly­ing on its 787 Dream­liner. The fully im­mer­sive, in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, takes users to all three cab­ins and in­cludes a vir­tual meal with wine in a Busi­ness cabin ex­ec­u­tive pod.

For in­flight en­ter­tain­ment, VR still has some chal­lenges to over­come. Firstly, the ques­tion of why pas­sen­gers would even want it on­board has to be ad­dressed. That means find­ing ways to make it a unique sell­ing point and an in­te­grated, easy-to-use part of the whole IFE ex­pe­ri­ence.

Google Card­board has po­ten­tial here as per­haps a quick and tem­po­rary so­lu­tion as it en­ables pas­sen­gers' per­sonal de­vices to be con­nected to a VR head­set. But Sam­sung's Gear VR mo­bile head­sets seem to work the best with mo­bile de­vices. They en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence and built-in sen­sors can de­tect what the user is look­ing at.

3Spin has de­vel­oped a pro­to­type for a vir­tual re­al­ity mov­ing map and cre­ated one for the Frank­furt to Dubai route which en­ables pas­sen­gers to ef­fec­tively see where they are in the jour­ney and dis­cover more about the desti­na­tions below them.

Work­ing with Lufthansa Sys­tems via Boardconnect, the team has also been able to cre­ate Boardconnect VR via Lufthansa's 360 mo­bile app.

It's still early days for VR on­board and fur­ther chal­lenges in­clude is­sues around con­tent, 3D and 2D films and, of course, how to deal with in­evitable in­flight tur­bu­lence. But the tech­nol­ogy is evolv­ing fast so watch this vir­tual space.

Us­ing VR tech­nol­ogy Lufthansa has made 50% more sales of last-minute up­grades

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