Virtual Reality

Airbus looking at virtual reality helmets for stressed passengers

Airbus looking at virtual real...
The VR helmet is designed to reduce air passenger stress
The VR helmet is designed to reduce air passenger stress
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An airliner camera with the VR helmet system
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An airliner camera with the VR helmet system
Various stages of VR helmet deployment in an air cabin
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Various stages of VR helmet deployment in an air cabin
Oblique view of the VR helmet system
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Oblique view of the VR helmet system
The VR helmet is designed to fold away
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The VR helmet is designed to fold away
The VR helmet is designed to reduce air passenger stress
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The VR helmet is designed to reduce air passenger stress
VR helmet with virtual keyboard
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VR helmet with virtual keyboard
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For many people, modern air travel is so stressful and unpleasant that they'd much rather be somewhere else. In an effort to oblige them, Airbus is building on its windowless virtual reality cockpit concept with its patent application for a VR helmet that's designed to let passengers swap the discomfort of Coach for a more calming virtual experience.

Air travel isn't what used to be. True, tickets are cheaper, but for those in the economy seats, the heyday of Mad Men comfort and service are long gone, and even those who can afford the luxury of First Class don't always have the best of it. Boredom before, during, and after a flight is common, and air cabins can often be unpleasant; full of unwanted noises, smells, and crowding. And then there's the obvious problem of claustrophobia that sitting in a plastic and aluminum tube does little to help.

According to Airbus, current entertainment options are often not enough to relieve the stress of flying, so one solution that the EU consortium is exploring is to use VR technology to take passengers as far out of the cabin experience as possible without actually leaving their seat.

VR helmet with virtual keyboard
VR helmet with virtual keyboard

The system is intended as more than just a means of delivering entertainment. It is a way of relieving passenger stress by providing isolation and an alternative environment designed to calm passenger’s down through music, videos, social media, special relaxation programs, and even smells.

The key to the Airbus system described in the patent is a VR helmet installed in or on the passenger seat. When folded away, the helmet and its carrier form part of the headrest. In operation, the helmet folds over the passenger's head along with a sliding visor. The adjustable helmet remains attached to its carrier, but still has some degree of movement independent of the seat back.

The patent offers a number of variations on the visor. In some, the visor is transparent and in other it’s at least partly opaque for greater isolation. In some versions, the transparency of the visor is adjustable. What all share is the ability to block out the outside world to one degree or another and replace it with projected images and videos.

Oblique view of the VR helmet system
Oblique view of the VR helmet system

Along with the visor, the helmet also boasts movable earphones, a microphone, a remote control, an air circulation system that can pipe in smells or oxygen for greater relaxation, and even a built-in airbag in the event of dangerous turbulence or other accidents. It's also customizable as to features or decorations.

Airbus says that the helmet can incorporate glasses to display 3D images, holograms or augmented reality. It can also connect to a passenger's own devices, such as computers, smartphones, and tablets, and can generate a virtual keyboard using motion capture gloves with the visor providing a realistic representation of the keyboard and the user’s hands. In addition, there's a remote control that can also be made virtual.

As a nod to the economics of air travel, the helmet can be made to swap out with the standard headrest, so it can be available to passengers on request or as a paid extra. Also, the number of parts of the helmet shell can vary, or it can be made out of fabric with supporting arches that are either rigid or inflatable.

Source: US Patent Office

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5 comments
Mel Tisdale
Let's face it, the only guaranteed way to make flying less stressful is to motorise the landing gear, lop off the wings and tailplane, and take the pretty route overland. Considering how high up the cabin is off the ground, the views should be spectacular.
Stephen N Russell
Ideal for long flights, see movies, TV after meal, until landing time For trips over 8 hours alone./
Ozuzi
Yes please!
f8lee
So how will this work when the putz sitting behind me insists on pushing and kicking the back of my chair? Or when the unruly slob next to me starts drooling on my while leaning into me to fall asleep?
Air travel will improve (assuming the overall classiness of people continues its downward spiral) only when this helmet concept is extended into becoming a full body pod to prevent other passengers from inflicting their horrible behaviors on me.
uqjhiggi
They should be concentrating on the other end of the torso. 14hours on your rear end does terrible things to your mind.