Imagine settling into your seat for a cross-country flight and slipping on a pair of over-sized goggles that will play 3-D movies and virtual-reality videos just inches from your eyeballs.
To Skylights, that’s the future of in-flight entertainment.
The French start-up company manufactures a headset with a built-in screen that claims to offer a “middle-row movie theater field of view” for watching high-resolution 2-D, 3-D and virtual-reality content. On Thursday, Skylights released the second iteration of the wearable device, called Bravo, which airlines can rent and loan to their passengers for a fee.
Skylights has trialed the headsets on a handful of European airlines over the last year, including Air France, KLM and low-cost carrier XL Airways. In July, the company established an office in Palo Alto, Calif., with hopes of expanding into the U.S. market, said Laurence Fornari, the head of sales.
Unlike the small screen in the back of the seat’s headrest, Fornari said a headset allows passengers “to really escape from where you are and be isolated from the rest of the cabin.” The fact that it shields your eyes and ears will allow you to “forget your neighbor that you don’t know” and block out “the baby that’s crying,” she said.
But Skylights’s only competitor isn’t the built-in screen. Increasingly, passengers are tapping into the airplane’s local WiFi network to stream movies, music and television shows on their personal phones, tablets and laptops. Indeed, some airlines have begun ditching headrest entertainment altogether.
Skylights already has agreements to show films from 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks, Fornari said, adding that the headsets currently offer about 60 movie options and can run for six hours on a single charge.
Only a small portion of the content available today is 360-degree video or virtual-reality content. Watching true virtual-reality content is tricky when strapped into an airline seat, Fornari said, because viewers’ range of motion is limited and they may be more prone to motion sickness. She said the company aims to add more “cinematic VR” that places the viewer inside the video while allowing them to still watch passively. For example, there would be no content behind the viewer that requires them to turn around.
“We want you to sit back, relax and enjoy the experience within the plane or train,” Fornari said.
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