Boeing eyes nextgen lighting, projection technology for cabins

Among the pioneers of LED mood lighting for aircraft cabins, Boeing introduced a step change with its Sky Interior for the 737 and dramatic 787 color schemes. Now it’s looking to take the experience to the next level. The US airframer is investigating next generation cabin lighting, projection technology and sound systems in a bid to inform, entertain and transform #PaxEx.

“Our engineers are looking at enhancing the passenger experience with the strategic use of accent lighting throughout the cabin. They’re also developing light projections on the ceiling, walls and bulkheads,” a Boeing spokesperson tells RGN. “The ceiling projections might be scenes from nature, chosen to enhance mood or for their calming effect, so a sky with stars and constellations at night, or sunny blue skies during the day.

Kontron NOW - VIDEO Avionics_300x300_watchVideo“Passenger information could be projected onto walls and bulkheads, while airlines might display information about a destination to inspire passengers for their onward journey.”

Motivation for the project has come from Boeing’s airline customers and their passengers. “Customers tell us they want to add the ‘wow’ factor to future cabins, as well as distinguishing their cabins from airlines flying the same airplane model. Passengers tell us that cabins feel more open and less constricted with these types of options installed,” says Boeing.

The manufacturer’s impressive concept video shows truly dramatic possibilities, but the company emphasizes that these are early days. “We’re working with suppliers, testing the latest in projection technology to support these concepts. They’re being tested in physical mock-ups to determine the optimal position for projection and to lessen interference by passengers or crew.”

The system offers perhaps unlimited possibilities, but will Boeing offer a suite of images from which to choose? “Our airline customers would be the ultimate decision makers in what kinds of projections are used. Boeing’s job is to present options based on the capabilities of the system and feedback we’ve received as to what they’re looking for in cabin lighting concepts,” says the airframer.

Boeing is not alone in exploring projection technology for the cabin. Emirates has already projected stars onto the ceiling of its Airbus A380. And in recent years, during the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Airbus has projected decorative images on sidewalls and seat numbers on overhead bins.

But do the types of projector and screen solutions shown in Boeing’s concept video carry a weight consideration? “Weight is definitely a consideration in the type and number of projectors,” says Boeing. “The work we’re doing with suppliers is helping us determine how we’ll handle the design. No final decisions have been made about the screens or projectors.”

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The ceiling becomes a virtual planetarium in Boeing’s concept video

Boeing is simultaneously investigating new cabin sound technologies that could slash weight, improve #PaxEx and increase safety. “Our engineers have developed an ‘invisible’ speaker, where the ceiling panels become the speaker,” says the airframer. “This advancement eliminates the need for the cone speakers currently spaced throughout the cabin. The invisible speaker extends sound all the way along the ceiling, because each panel is a speaker, improving sound quality.”

There are obvious synergies between a cabin-wide sound system and projected imagery, so when should we expect this audio-visual extravaganza to appear? Boeing was unable to share a timeline, but commented: “Because these ideas are still in the concept stage, no decisions have been made about their inclusion in future models. Once the technology is ready, then it will be evaluated on a model-by-model basis.”

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New screen and sound technology features in Boeing’s concept

3 Comments

  1. Ray

    Will the seats on your planes magically get wide with more pitch with the new projection lights? No? then fix the basic problems first and before trying to add “new” technology that does nothing to improve the basic needs of passengers. I wouldn’t care less if I get to see the stars on a 14 hours flight if I’m constantly fighting with the overweight guy on 45A for space and the arm-rest hogger on 45C.

    • Al T.

      Correct. Add enough pitch so a person can sit with a medium-sized laptop and not be cramped. And stop adding an extra seat per row in planes that were not designed . That will be a big wow factor. Then add all these things and you’ll really have WOW!

      I would love to see a live projection of what’s outside, kind of like a big window.

  2. Projection is very interesting — totally customizable on the fly. For a moment I was getting a bit of déjà vu from 2005 during the 777-200LR Worldliner tour. Then in the Boeing Flight Test Journal – predecessor to Boeing’s Randy’s Journal, Jim Condelles, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Media Relations wrote:

    Comments throughout the airplane [Boeing 777-200LR, N6066Z] were mostly of the “wow” variety, as people craned their heads upward at the starry “sky.” It’s a custom-designed ceiling, lit from behind to resemble the stars at night. The “starry” mood lighting on the World Tour aircraft is an astronomically correct night sky as you’d see in Seattle. That starry sky captivated the media, too. A reporter from the Newark Star-Ledger asked me later whether this would be offered to airlines as an option. The answer is yes. And the “stars” can be configured to correspond with the way the night sky looks in an airline’s home country.

    Projection offers quite the range of possibilities, should be quite awesome.