Qantas passengers to try virtual reality

Airline lets passengers in First Class try out gear

Qantas is partnering with Samsung Electronics Australia to give passengers in First Class the chance to try out some futuristic new headsets. The three-month entertainment trial uses virtual reality technology to give users a multidimensional experience in a 360-degree interactive format.

Initially, the headsets immerse passengers in the sights, sounds and panoramas of the airline’s destinations, as well as a selection of the latest blockbuster movies.

They will be available in first-class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne from mid-February and on some Qantas A380 flights between Australia and Los Angeles from mid-March. It will be the first time this kind of virtual reality technology has been offered to people who are already in motion.

“From an inflight entertainment perspective, it’s an industry first,” said Olivia Wirth Qantas executive for brand, marketing and corporate affairs.

But Jonny Clark, founder and editor of TheDesignAir, cautions that the offer could be a gamble.

“Personally speaking, as a commercial pilot I use simulators all the time for training, which is in effect, giant virtual reality. […] I’ve also been in a simulator when the visual has been slightly out of sync, where motion doesn’t match the visual experience, and the effects are nauseating. When two inputs to our brain mismatch – such as spinning on a chair with your eyes closed and then quickly stopping, we can feel sick. Why? Our brain tells us we are spinning in the opposite direction, even when we are stationary,” he says.

“So if the plane, at 40,000 feet, decides to descend, or bank, or hits some unexpected turbulence, and someone is wearing this with an image of movie of something happening in a different direction to the plane’s movement, this could bring on a serious case of air sickness. What’s more, taking off the headset to find a sick bag, could increase the disorientation.”

Airline Trends / TheDesignAir

[photo courtesy Qantas]