We got used to seeing the VR experiments left right and center, but what about up in the sky? As it turns out, Alaska Airlines is bent on delivering the full VR movie theater experience some 35,000 feet up in the air. Teaming up with SkyLights, the airline companies have already done a VR theater trial run, to the utter approval of the first passengers.
While waiting for the SpaceX VR space broadcast, we are getting somewhat different airborne Virtual Reality experience. Alaska Airline and a host of other companies began testing the waters for VR in-flight movies and videos. There is hardly a person more readily involved in the project than Alaska Airline in-flight entertainment manager David Scotland.
‘I’m really excited to see this technology on board. Wearing the headset is comparable to having a personal movie screen in front of you’ says Scotland. Mouthwatering as the statement sounds, the effort is still in experimental phase. The Alaska Airlines plan is to test the technology and then deploy it to 10 first-class flights, Seattle-Boston and Boston San-Diego.
The passengers can choose between 2D and 3D movies, titles like ‘Ready Player One’ among the options in 3D. They can also turn to 360 head tracking videos if the choice of movies is not to their liking. But the VR movie theater remains very much the main focus. ‘It’s easy to feel like you’re at the movie theater instead of flying’ Scotland finishes.
For the sky high Virtual Reality Theater to work, the VR movie eyewear ought to be lightweight enough. The headset procurer of choice is SkyLights, a French-American immersive tech company whose Allosky headset ticked all the boxes for VR flight movies. Allosky is among the least heavy-on-your-head devices on the market, with an emphasis on noise-cancelling capabilities. SkyLights is also very particular about what features to include into the VR Airline Theater. Not just for the obvious reasons of quality and focus, but also do avoid the feeling of nausea some people report happen with VR devices.
There is hardly a more nauseating pairing that comes to mind than the one of VR and air flight. That’s why the idea succumbed to rigorous testing by multiple airline companies. Yet not only does it work, but 95% of XL Airlines passengers who have been through a trial run came out satisfied. The Alaska Airlines project is the most ambitious so far. The test runs for Alaska Airlines started Sunday and include a very controlled experience that will help assess the technology prior to its potential full deployment. But the decision is still in the air as to whether the company is sticking to the VR plan. ‘We’ve made no official commitment to pursuing VR long term, but this trial will help us shape our future strategy’.
But leave strategy to the strategists. What matters to us passengers is the choice. Having options on the menu is what makes the flight enjoyable. And VR Movie theater sounds (probably looks and feels, too) like a great choice to have around.