Inflight VR, a startup company offering virtual-reality (VR) headsets for inflight entertainment (IFE), has found a launch customer after it conducted test flights with three carriers.

The headsets will enter service in May with a European carrier, according to founder and managing director Nikolas Jaeger.

The evaluations took place with Iberia, Germania and an unnamed airline. “We are adjusting the content to the various classes,” Nikolas Jaeger said. Otherwise, depending on the space available per passenger, the neighbor of an Inflight VR headset user could be disturbed by his gesturing.

Options for content include movies, concerts, a tour of the destination, shopping and relaxation exercises. “The airline has a captive audience for several hours,” Jaeger said. From a passenger’s standpoint, such a device enables him or her “to escape the cabin.”

The company could deliver in four-six weeks, Jaeger said. One device is said to be cheaper than a fixed seat-back IFE system. However, one aircraft could likely receive only a few dozens headsets—fewer than its passenger capacity. Because of the size of a headset, a regular trolley can contain 50 of them, Jaeger explained.

How to store content is a question related to that of situational awareness. On the one hand, storage on the device itself gives autonomy and is feasible thanks to two-terabyte SD cards. On the other hand, the absence of connection between the headset and the cabin management system may be a safety issue. A solution may be to do both. In-cabin connectivity would be used when the crew makes an announcement and when a safety message has to be displayed. But the VR content would still be stored on each headset, as streaming 3D images to 50 passengers would take too much bandwidth, Jaeger said.

For the airline, the VR device may yield ancillary revenues. Advertisers would pay a premium price for immersive videos, thanks to the 110-degree field of view. Economy-class passengers would be able to rent the headset.

It weighs approximately 1 lb. and battery autonomy stands at “three to four hours.” The catering company will be responsible for charging. Inflight VR has picked Pico headsets, but is talking to other manufacturers, Jaeger said.

Thierry Dubois, thierry.dubois@aviationweek.com