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A select group of members of the press were invited to a preview of the new prototype business class seat which the aviation tech geniuses at Thales have designed in collaboration with B/E Aerospace, one of the two world-dominating aircraft seat manufacturers, and BMW, who make some nice cars.
This completely radical prototype design merges all the features you’d want in a lie-flat comfortable premium aircraft seat, alongside your favorite full-immersion entertainment experience at home.
Then it ramps that blend up with some sci-fi, movie-making future-vision tech.
Here are the top features which made us think twice about the future waiting for us in the aircraft cabin.
1. The seat knows who you are and what you want
It is designed to remember you, based on a direct-connect to your personal electronic device. By identifying you when you place your device on the side panel, the seat’s voyeur-smart computerized system connects to your social profiles and reads your data footprint to learn what you like when you travel and in every other area of your life.
It uses all that Big Data to determine what content you’re likely to want to watch on the big screen which tilts as you do, what position you’ll like your seat to be in, what color side panel active video display it should play to help you chill out, what kind of massage setting you enjoy, and what your favorite onboard food is.
It probably also knows what you got up to in Vegas, but according to Thales, it won’t tell.
2. It has surround sound
Not quite the all-intuitive in-flight entertainment system (IFE) as the previous point, but the super-plush headrests will guarantee that any entertainment you hear onboard will sound like it’s happening right next to you.
Which could be good or bad, depending on what movie you’ve chosen to watch.
3. The very large entertainment screen tilts as you do in the seat
The IFE is visually controlled … by your eyes. Yes, your eyes. Look at the icon on the screen for a movie you like, and it plays. Look away to ask a flight attendant for a fresh drink, it pauses. Look back, it starts the movie again. Fall asleep, it pauses. Wake up, it starts up again.
There is a way to keep it from doing that, but Thales believes that you’d want it to be this responsive.
4. The vision-control system is so sophisticated that it can read your facial features well enough to run a health-check
It could test your vision for you and recommend glasses. We’re not making that up. Thales assured us it is true. It can even read your Poker Face, and determine whether you’re lying to the person you’re trying to chat up across the aisle. It could then send them a warning message through the interactive communication system onboard.
We are making that up. Maybe.
5. It’s going to fly
In around five years, or possibly sooner, we’ll enjoy this onboard forward-thinking airlines. Thales, B/E, and BMW don’t have a firm customer for this yet, but they’re pretty confident one is on the way. Full certification testing for the seat will take a bit, but it’s practically ready to go — thanks to B/E’s expertise in this area.
Their optimistic timeline for delivery, should an airline want it sooner, is three years.