Trying to find a comfortable position in which to sleep when on a plane can be an exercise in futility. You could try folding your arms and resting on a tray table, but then a lack of available space will likely keep you from napping. The inflatable Woollip travel pillow breathes new life into these age-old problems.
Like the Ostrich Pillow and the NapAnywhere, the Woollip is aimed at helping people to get some sleep when they're on the go. It was designed by well-traveled father and daughter team Franck and Diane Levy, following a flight together. Recognizing the potential for a support that would allow for lean-forward sleeping on planes and inspired by the concept of lean-forward portable massage chairs, they set about developing their idea.
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Described as a "flipped pillow," the Woollip is an inflatable structure with holes through which the user's arms can be placed. It allows the would-be snoozer to sleep with their face down, to the side or resting on their shoulder, or to be used back-to-front with their chin resting on its highest point.
The premise for the Woollip relies in part on the fact that gravity will often pull your head forward when sleeping in a plane, even if you dozed off with your head against the back of your chair. Tray-tables are typically too low to rest your head on and, even if they weren't, are generally inaccessible due to the proximity of the chair in front.
These issues are tackled by way of the Woollip's height. It stands on the user's tray-table and is reported to provide a sufficient angle and sufficient space for the user to rest their head without being impeded by the chair in front. Once fully inflated, the Woollip is said to cater for people up to 1.95-m (6.4-ft) tall. By releasing air via its valve, its height can be adjusted so as to cater for people as short as 1.4-m (4.6-ft).
According to Franck and Diane, a great deal of prototyping was carried out to finalize the position and height of the Woollip and it even works when the seat in front has been reclined. In addition, they say it supports the upper body and allows the shoulders and the head to fold forward, thereby avoiding the onset of back and neck pain.
Naturally, being a travel product, the Woollip has been designed with portability in mind, measuring 6.3 x 6.3 x 1.38 in (16 x 16 x 3.5 cm) when folded and weighing just 9 oz (255 g). It can apparently be inflated with just five breaths in 15 seconds and be deflated in as little as two seconds. It also comes with its own directions-for-use card that is based on an airplane's emergency instructions card.
A Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for the Woollip is ongoing. At the time of writing, pledges from €27 (US$31) will be rewarded with one of the pillows, assuming all goes to plan with the roll-out. Shipping is expected from July.
The video below is the Kickstarter pitch for the Woollip.