Alaska Airlines Begins Testing VR As First Class Entertainment

Alaska Airlines new VR theater experience could make you forget you are on an airplane.

Airlines love the idea of giving a top-notch travel experience to its customers, and with VR and AR playing a more prominent role in how we travel these days, such as PeriscapeVR‘s VR towers at JFK’s International Terminal 4 or KLM Airlines AR luggage app, it only makes sense that the technology would eventually become part of your actual inflight entertainment.

Seeing its potential as a new form of airborne entertainment, Seattle, WA-based Alaska Airlines has begun testing an inflight VR entertainment package that would swap out the standard head-rest screen with a super lightweight Qualcomm Snapdragon powered SkyLights Allosky VR headset that would offer a selection of 2D and 3D films along with 360 VR content during your trip.

The program remains in its trial phase with an end goal of determining whether the idea of a VR experience, similar to that of the Netflix VR app or Oculus Venues, would resonate with airline passengers.

The VR trial flights – which are being tested on 10 flights between Boston and Seattle, as well as Boston and San Diego – are the result of a partnership between Alaska Airlines and SkyLights, along with support from 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, and EIM.

To support their exploration of VR entertainment through SkyLights Allosky VR headset, Alaska Airlines turned to a catalog of entertainment from Hollywood partners to offer films including the Academy Award winning “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, Steven Spielberg’s adaption of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One, and the family-friendly animated picture, “Ferdinand”.

Allosky claims the headset is also capable of playing user-owned content, as well as streaming on-demand services, such as Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, just to name a few. No word though on whether users will be able to access their personal subscriptions while onboard.

VR, however, doesn’t come easy to everyone; something Alaska Airlines and SkyLights are fully prepared for. To help eliminate any type of frustration that new VR users may experience during the trial (this includes both passengers and even the flight crew) – an experienced SkyLights team member is on-board each Alaska Airlines test flight to answer any questions passengers may have or to resolve any issues that could pop up.

In order to produce results that would assist Alaska Airlines and SkyLights in their trial endeavor, the team needed a contained focus group in which to pull information from. Their answer? Limit the VR trials to strictly First Class passengers. Feedback collected during the trial will then be used to help the airline understand how comfortable passengers were with VR technology, along with which VR entertainment options they preferred.

This data would also show the impact passengers fully immersed in VR headsets and noise-cancelling headphones might have on the flow of inflight services. Between having to assist a passengers unfamiliar with VR headset and getting an immersed passengers attention to see if they’d like a snack, it’s entirely possible this process could disrupt the experience of other travelers not engaged in VR.

Alaska Airlines seems to be very excited with the idea of VR being apart of their inflight experience, but they haven’t fully committed to the concept just yet. David Scotland, Alaska Airlines Manager of Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity said in a press release, “We’ve made no official commitments to pursuing VR long-term but this trial will help us shape our future strategy.”

With trials ending soon, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the program will expand to all passengers, remain limited to first class, or be abandoned completely. While some of the more active 360-degree experiences may not be the best form of entertainment during turbulence-prone flights, intimate VR environments in which passengers can privately immerse themselves in a 2D film or TV show could be a very appealing option during a crowded flight.

If the ambitious experiment does end up moving forward you might want to invest in a few Post It notes so you can write down your snack choices and stick them to your headset.

Nothing worse than missing out on your complimentary peanuts.

Image Credit: Alaska Airlines / Allosky

About the Scout

Bobby Carlton

Hello, my name is Bobby Carlton. When I'm not exploring the world of immersive technology, I'm writing rock songs about lost love. I'd also like to mention that I can do 25 push-ups in a row.

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