A Virtual Journey

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2012

Australian Carrier to Introduce Virtual Reality Headsets



Australian airline, Qantas, will present passengers with Samsung’s Virtual Reality Headsets, Gear VR. Premium passengers will be able to use the instrument on some long distance flights. A three month trial will occur when Qantas will make the VR available to first-class passengers on some of the airline’s A380 flights between Australia and Los Angeles.

Eventually, Qantas says the VR technology, “will transport customers to an immersive virtual world…and showcase the sights and delights of network destinations, new Qantas products and the latest in-flight blockbuster movies.”

The company will first offer samples of short features called “vignettes” filmed in Australia and produced by Palo Alto-based technology company Jaunt.

“Travel and VR make a natural pair,” said Jaunt CEO Jens Christensen. So adding virtual reality options to the in-flight experience seems like a logical next step.

“We’ve gone from no in-flight entertainment, to one drop-down screen, then screens in the seats, and now personal screens,” said Christensen.

“VR is the next step on the evolutionary scale,” he added. “Instead of a limited-size screen, a passenger is transported to a new location.”

However widespread use by other airlines seems unlikely for the time being due to the high costs of the headsets and their handling. Other issues include the risked side effects which can include vertigo, nausea and in extreme cases seizures.

Frank Catalano, a tech industry consultant, claimed that using a device that stimulates motion whilst already in a moving environment can lead to air sickness. However, the stationary filming techniques used in the vignettes are said to eliminate nausea.

The question was raised as to whether virtual reality would eliminate the need to travel, however a regular flyer argued the opposite claiming, “all virtual reality can do is stimulate the appetite for the real thing.”

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