Skip to main content

Immersive Cabin

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - IMCA (Immersive Cabin)

Reporting period: 2017-07-01 to 2019-01-31

Airlines are seeking new opportunities to generate ancillary revenue and increase passenger well-being, offering augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR) experiences to customers is one of them. These so-called immersive technologies allow new ways to promote and sell products during the flight by showing lifelike interactive visualisations and by directly connecting to digital shopping channels. They also create new ways for supporting the passenger, for example in preparing a tight transfer by immersively visualising the route from arrival to departure gate. Last but not least, they are a great way to entertain and relax.

In order to successfully introduce immersive experiences in the aircraft cabin, several challenges must be faced. The challenges are primarily on the human factors side. Even on the ground, some immersive technologies result in negative effects on comfort and well-being. These effects may be aggravated during flight. And since passengers are immersed in a virtual world, communication with cabin crew may be hampered, potentially affecting cabin safety and the efficiency of the service.

The IMCA (IMmersive CAbin) project aimed to tackle the most important challenges surrounding introduction of immersive technologies in the aircraft cabin. It did so by developing and evaluating a use case of an immersive experience, taking into account all relevant aspects: human factors, safety, aircraft integration, as well as commercial and legal aspects. As part of this, a methodology was developed which helps to efficiently identify and tackle potential human factors and cabin safety issues. The methodology was applied to a use case, which resulted in a test on a motion base cabin simulator.

It was concluded from the test that immersive experience can indeed have a significant impact on cabin safety, service efficiency and personal well-being. Application of the IMCA human factors methodology to pinpoint and solve potential issues is highly recommended. Development of guidelines for in-flight VR applications can help to further improve the situation.
1. Selection of hardware
Technologies for VR and AR applications were evaluated for their opportunities to use them during flight. Three devices were selected: (1) the Microsoft HoloLens as model for high-cost, untethered AR, (2) an up-to-date Android Smartphone using Samsung Gear VR as model for low-cost, untethered VR and (3) the Oculus Rift CV-1 as a model for high-cost, tethered VR. These devices are good examples for the different models of immersive technology that can be expected to be used in flight in the aircraft cabin of the near future.

2. Creation of use case
A use case was developed and analysed in a structured way using a design approach: an in-flight meal information experience using the Microsoft HoloLens. The use case was detailed, an initial software prototype was made and the associated potential human factors issues were identified. After further economical analysis, it was decided to abandon this use case. Instead, a way finding experience for transfer passengers was chosen as the use case for the project.

3. Design of Human Factors Impact Analysis methodology
A methodology was developed to identify and evaluate potential human factor issues of immersive experiences within an aircraft cabin environment in a structured and efficient way. The methodology was adapted from EASA’s flight deck “human factor certification” (CS/AMC 25.1302) and covers impact of immersive technologies on safety, service, and passenger comfort. The methodology helps to quickly focus on aspects of immersive experiences that are novel, complex from a passenger standpoint and integrated with other experiences. The methodology offers practical support by providing a checklist for identifying potential issues and an overview of tools and methodologies for assessment of passenger state.

4. Development of a concept proposal
A concept proposal was created for the transfer passenger way finding use case. It takes into account items such as required hardware and software, integration, flight safety, security, potential legal issues, aircraft system architecture and airline business case. Altogether, it provides a holistic view for the application of AR/VR in the cabin.

5. Evaluation of a concept demonstrator
A concept demonstrator of the transfer passenger use case was developed and evaluated in a motion base cabin simulator. People representative of the adult passenger population and cabin crew population were invited to participate in the structured human-in-the-loop evaluations. The test plan was created using the human factors methodology developed in the project.
Since introduction of VR and AR in normal society is rather new, responsible introduction of these techniques in an aircraft cabin is in itself beyond the state of the art.

IMCA focusses on several aspects of the use of VR / AR in an aircraft cabin and will as such have impact on a number of related areas. To name a view:
•The human factor (passenger health and well-being)
•The flight safety and security
•The (international) legal issues and cultural etiquette on applications
•The aircraft system architecture and integration

Both the effect of the AR / VR as well as the dedicated Human Factors Impact Analysis methodology that was designed especially for this project are completely new. The methodology can be applied in a broad range of domains in the future.

The opportunities of VR / AR like the intuitive and fast way of informing passengers about their flight, about their destination, the new and improved ways to entertain passengers on board are all new. Airlines are performing the first experiments with these technologies. This holds for possible effects on interaction between passengers and between passenger and cabin crew as well. During the project, much was learned about the true added value of AR / VR and items that need to be solved.

It has become evident that this new technology will definitely have a great impact on passengers in the aircraft cabin. The tests in a motion base cabin simulator were disseminated and picked up by the press and on social media. Awareness of the potential risks of AR / VR in the aircraft cabin was certainly raised.
Tesing the effects of AR / VR on passengers in a motion base cabin simulator (Photo: NLR)