Qantas tests virtual reality for in-flight entertainment

Block out annoying passengers with VR on airplanes

At least for now, the VR experience is limited to first-class travelers. Credit: Qantas
At least for now, the VR experience is limited to first-class travelers. Credit: Qantas

Forget in-flight iPads; Qantas is about to pilot virtual reality goggles on the heads of its customers.

The trial entertainment service uses Samsung Gear VR headsets to show customers virtual 3D destinations, new Qantas products and in-flight movies. Qantas claims to be the first airline to offer in-flight VR.

Sadly, economy passengers will have to wait their turn to try the devices. The trial will provide Gear VR headsets to customers in Sydney and Melbourne International First Lounges starting mid-February, and in First Class cabins on select A380 services starting mid-March.

Over the three-month trial, Qantas will assess customer feedback on how VR might add to the travel experience on long-haul flights.

“Whether the user wants a virtual tour of our new Los Angeles First Lounge or to experience an A380 landing from the tarmac, this technology gives us a completely new way to connect with our customers,” said Olivia Wirth, Qantas group executive of brand, marketing and corporate affairs.

“It’s also a fantastic tool to feature our network’s destinations, inspiring travel and promoting tourism.”

Qantas tapped production company, Jaunt, to develop and produce live-action content including destination footage.

The airline has partnered with Tourism NT to create a 3D experience from Kakadu National Park.

“This innovation literally adds a new dimension to how visitors experience Kakadu,” said Northern Territory chief minister, Adam Giles.

“Tourism NT is delighted to pilot this new technology as part of its suite of marketing projects utilising new, industry leading technology, and what better way to demonstrate the impact this VR technology can have than by showcasing Kakadu, one of the world’s most iconic ‘must do’ tourism destinations.”

Samsung has been targeting enterprises with Gear VR. The company recently partnered with virtual reality production house, Virtual Reality Ventures, which is helping the REA Group and other big Australian companies develop VR experiences.

Related: Why virtual reality is opening up a new world for customer interaction

The VR trial follows Qantas’ decision in 2012 to replace TV screens on the backs of seats with iPads for in-flight entertainment.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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