Stelia, Skylights unveil in-seat 3D-VR headset, speakers and seat control

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BOSTON — Skylights’ 3D, virtual reality Allosky headset is being offered integrated with Stelia’s compact staggered Opal seat, together with a rumble and vibration strip from InSeat Solutions, to provide a full 4D cinematic viewing experience for passengers — together with seat control from within the headset.

“Stelia Aerospace has partnered with Skylights to bring the VR experience directly integrated into the seat,” Stelia head of marketing Claire Nurcombe explains to Runway Girl Network. “That allows us to provide not just the 2 and 3D cinematic features of the Skylights system, but in partnership as well with InSeat — who are providing the rumble and vibration strip — we can create a fully 4D cinematic experience within the seat.”

That includes relaxation and wellness programmes as well as cinematic and virtual reality, all integrated with the seat.

“What the role of Stelia Aerospace has been within that is to integrate all of these diverse systems into the seat and to create an environment where you are sitting in total comfort, having a wireless headset, wireless VR set, and a fully moving cinematic experience,” Nurcome explains. “You get all the rumbles from the explosions, all that kind of thing.”

Stelia’s Claire Nurcombe notes the seatmaker has taken an integrator role in the project. Image: John Walton

In person, the system is impressive in its effect, with a more-than-cinematic experience possible. Much of the reaction to the product has focussed on VR, and the fact that some passengers may experience some nausea when using a VR headset, especially in motion. However, the Skylights product isn’t just about virtual reality. Indeed, a more compelling use case for the 3D-capable headset may well be watching movies immersively while reclined.

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While previous brief demonstrations of Skylights have focussed on the VR functionality, your author watched some thirty minutes of a Hollywood blockbuster movie aboard the Lufthansa Flying Lab passenger experience technology demonstration flight from Munich to Boston for APEX EXPO, and there is a certain something about being able to lean your head back and have the content follow the eye.

Allosky is not perfect: there’s a learning curve to get the combination of focus and the spacing of each eye’s screen correct, but when you get it right it’s a little like the wonder of a Magic Eye picture coming into view. The Allosky headset is, however, leaps and bounds beyond the first generation version, and indeed it’s notably light and comfortable on the face, with relatively simple controls.

“The other innovation that we’ve brought to this project is the ability to control the seat itself when you are within the virtual world,” Nurcombe says. “That allows you to move from an upright to a reclined position, or to readjust your position if you’re already in recline and you want to go full flat, without having to start getting out of your virtual world to find the seat buttons to be able to control your seat. You can just slip into the virtual world, control your seat, and then continue watching your film and relaxing.”

Controlling the seat recline with your eyes is a truly remarkable change. Image: John Walton

Declining to discuss the specific set of connectivity bands or systems the headset-to-seat connection used, Stelia confirmed that it was a mix of connectivity types, but that all are already used in the cabin and are not expected to pose any certification problems.

“We’ve got a number of electric boxes that are interfacing both with the integrated systems and with the seat electronics themselves. Obviously, there’s a certain amount of proprietary magic involved in that. But there’s receivers and transceivers so that we can manage all the different wireless and wired connections between the various elements so that it’s completely seamless for the passenger,” Nurcombe says.

Indeed, sitting in the chair on the showfloor of a trade show, the seamlessness — and the feeling of being transported away to a noise-cancelled 3D world — were truly remarkable.

Immersive entertainment via the goggles and headset is an impressive passenger experience offering. Image: John Walton

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