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
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