Isolationism – VR’s Blessing and Curse

In flight entertainment has seen tremendous improvements over the past half decade. Seatback monitors, while generally not very big, offer an array of movie and television choices while in-flight WIFI continues to become easier and easier to access. However, Alaska Airlines thinks that they can one up that experience, by using virtual reality.

During a 4-day period at the end of September, 10 flights on the airline will test out their VR offering. Passengers will receive a lightweight headset, made by in-flight entertainment company SkyLights, and have the option to be entertained by a few different VR experiences. Given the stationary nature of the environment, these experiences are limited to watching movies in your own private theatre and exploring virtual worlds through slight head movements.

Paired up with noise cancelling headphones, those experiencing VR will easily tune out any crying babies or other distractions aboard the flight and may make for an incredibly enjoyable experience. But is VR the future of in-flight entertainment?

Implications

Virtual Reality has long been knocked for some of its glaring fallbacks. It’s an isolating experience that’s expensive to set up and doesn’t have compelling content offerings to justify it. Those fallbacks, while justified, are tailored to the home – as a replacement or auxiliary option to your family gaming system. On a flight, many people prefer that sense of isolationism, as even the thought of sparking up a conversation with a random neighbor gives them anxiety. And cost issues? Well, those may be an airline value add or an additional fee.

In 2019, we’ll likely see VR address its obvious fallbacks and offer more experiences tailored to the environment that individual is already in. Location based VR, like arcades and immersive experiences such as The Void, have become increasingly more popular as they drastically reduce the isolated aspect of the experience. VR during in-flight, and possibly other transportation offerings, will look to capitalize on isolationism in the completely opposite sense.

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