Unveiling the Future of In-Flight Entertainment: Technology and Trends
Once you get used to flying and aerophobia is no longer an issue, the biggest problem on a commercial aircraft is boredom. While the busiest airports in the world have a lot of leisure activities while you are waiting, the same cannot be said about in-flight entertainment (IFE).
While you are flying some 35000 feet up in the sky, the options for entertainment are limited. But the time when your only choice is a book or an in-built screen is coming to an end. Technologies are catching up, and new in-flight trends are quickly rising among airlines.
In-flight internet connection
A stable internet connection used to be technically impossible on a plane. For one, all electronic devices – phones, tablets, PCs, emit radio signals that might interfere with communications used by pilots.
That’s why passengers must turn off the connections of their electronic devices. But even if you will turn on your mobile data while flying, it’s unlikely to work properly. Planes are flying too high above the cellular towers, and the signal simply won’t reach you.
However, the technologies to avoid possible disturbances and transmit the internet on planes are already there. The European Union has recently announced that flights within member states will no longer need to enforce this rule.
Airlines can provide a 5G internet connection on the aircraft without the loss of crucial connections. Besides, many luxury airlines have already been using Air-to-Ground (ATG) Wi-Fi for years without issues.
The times the “airplane mode” is coming to an end. The possibility of a stable internet connection is a basis for IFE systems that are being planned today.
The rise of platforms like Netflix and Spotify took the entertainment industry by storm. So much so that it’s common to get all of our entertainment through the internet. The only places that dogged this change are remote places and flights.
But with the possibility of in-flight internet, streaming movies or music while on a plane is entirely possible. No need to choose from a pre-selected media list. Passengers can simply connect to their usual accounts and watch whatever they prefer.
Of course, the data transfer rates are slower, and some compromises in audio and video quality will need to be made. But the progress is there. It’s only a matter of time before we will reach the same level of accessibility as in our home entertainment systems.
Gaming, especially online games, falls into a similar category as streaming media. The possibility of the internet enables IFE systems to become the same ones we use at home. However, gaming of most kinds requires an even stronger internet connection.
The only option seems to be offline play with some minor downloads via the slower in-flight connection. Such an option is quite popular among passengers, especially a multitude of educational games that allow you to, for example, learn some of the languages of your destination country.
Educational indie games do not require a strong internet connection and much processing power to implement. However, longer this option isn’t very entertaining for longer flights. But there is another option that may change the game entirely.
Virtual reality (VR) headsets have become affordable, reliable, compact, and energy-efficient enough to be used on planes. Passengers can escape their aerophobia by engulfing themselves in a virtual world where they are on the ground. Walking the streets of a city you will land in a few hours is a real possibility now.
Qatar Airways are already offering such entertainment option to its passengers for a route from Singapore to London. It’s not only a great possibility to pass the time but also adds to the experience by augmenting the places you are flying above with a plane.
Moving map systems are long known as a great source of information and entertainment to passengers. It’s simply a map showing the approximate location of the plan.
Virtual reality headsets can augment this information with a real-time 3D image of the plane flying. It can also show the inside of the pilot’s cabin and make the passenger feel like he is the one flying the plane.
Whether it’s games, virtual reality, or streaming media, passengers will want a personalized experience. It’s standard for all entertainment platforms these days. Netflix, for example, is constantly tracking everything you watch so its algorithms could suggest you the best content and maximize the time you spend on the platform.
The same trend applies to IFE systems as customers want a seamless experience no matter where they are. Otherwise, the entertainment system is an inconvenience. The most obvious choice is to allow passengers to use their own devices and, by extension, their own entertainment accounts.
This option comes with security and performance risks for the on-plane internet connections. That’s why we are only seeing a somewhat streamlined approach that provides some form of customization on the existing system.
That way airlines can collect data and use their own algorithms and Artificial intelligence models. It enables them to make suggestions to passengers and provide paid services available in-flight and after it.
Most airlines already offer a multitude of shuttles, car rentals, currency exchange, hotel reservations other trip-planning possibilities to passengers. However, a stable wifi connection on board enables passengers to browse such options themselves and get more accurate suggestions.
Travel updates might change customers buying habits quite drastically in only a few hours. A reported storm, for example, while on a flight to a holiday destination might make most passengers want to change hotel reservations or look for indoor activities.
Getting relevant suggestions and being able to make changes to your trip while flying is undoubtedly a benefit and all it takes is a stable in-flight internet connection.
Most of the inventions to better the entertainment of passengers are already invented. Now, it’s only a matter of making them more economically viable, which is inevitable in a few decades.