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With buzz around the new head-mounted displays (HMDs), and airlines’ desperate to distract passengers from cabin conditions, it comes as no surprise that the aviation industry has been asking this question recently, some going as far as launching trials.
While there is some skepticism in the industry over the long-term viability of HMDs as in-flight entertainment options, Gogo has given some thought to the heady topic and published a white paper detailing the pros and cons for aviation.
As the paper states, this tech offers travelers a personal immersive entertainment experience that neither personal electronic devices nor in-seat entertainment systems can match. Passengers could enjoy their content in any seat position, even when enjoying their lie-flat bed. Gogo also points out that this occlusive tech keeps fellow passengers from looking over your shoulder at whatever you’re watching. If “Fifty Shades of Grey” ever makes it to IFE, that virtual private “viewing room” experience could be a perk for some.
But it’s not all good. Gogo acknowledges that some of these systems aren’t “carry-on friendly.” Battery life can be short. There’s a chance passengers will “forget” to return the precious gear at the end of the flight. In aviation, this happens a lot. A lot. (Story for another time.)
There are also the very important issues of comfort and hygiene. But of greatest concern, flying with these things on your head could make you sick.
“Prolonged use of HMD’s is still up for debate, and in many cases comfort of using HMD’s for longer periods of time will depend on the user. During our tests, some systems created light dizziness and nausea after just ten minutes of use, while others created no problems after using the system for well over an hour,” the paper states.
It’s not the first time this issue of virtual in-flight sickness has (pardon the expression) come up. Even avid AvGeek specialists in Europe–eager to make 18 different types of appalling (and one mild-mannered) passengers disappear into a virtual reality cocoon–admitted this was an issue during their trials.
There is also a serious concern about safety. “An immersive experience completely shuts the user out from the outside world,” states Gogo. “Especially when playing locally stored content, users have no way of knowing what is going on in the cabin. Seat belt announcements or other issues will go entirely unnoticed, as will less important things like meal service.”
If those safety concerns weren’t enough to alarm regulators, flight crew, and cabin crew, the meal service thing would have passengers up in arms.