It’s no secret that the aviation industry is incrementally beginning to use virtual reality applications to deliver services and education within their vertical. Companies such as Air France, Airbus, Boeing and Emirates are tapping VR for in-flight entertainment, jet maintenance and aircraft cabin training, demonstrating the broad uses of the technology. Beta VR programs have been in place for several years now and we will see longer-term, permanent use cases for VR that’s immersive and interactive beginning to take flight in 2018 and beyond.

In England, AiSolve recently had the pleasure of demonstrating our VR products for training and playing to Heathrow Airport’s c-suite executives, department heads and operations staff. We also hosted a wide range of specialist employees. Lead by our CEO, Devi Kolli, we were on-site at Heathrow’s corporate offices and came prepared to make an impact; setting up our location-based free-roaming VR attraction arena, WePlayVR, and several demo stations of our VR training software, VRSims, which we deploy for immersive/interactive simulation in manufacturing and healthcare.

Lasting a full business day, our VR product showcase at Heathrow had some big surprises.  Sure, as a team we went in with solid expectations that our technology would be seen by a few members of each Heathrow division (executive, operations, innovation), but we weren’t quite prepared for the significant increase in demoing once word started to spread through the corporate office. Both WePlayVR and VRSims soon became pretty popular demos at their AR/VR Innovation day and was very well attended by Heathrow execs and staff across their departments.

At this point, it shouldn’t be surprising that the VR software and hardware we’ve spent years developing has an impact in professional and skills trades environments.  Yet, sometimes it is even though we spend a great deal of time demoing to field experts at events like this that feedback into our product development for refinement. Let’s just say it’s incredibly satisfying to watch people be surprised and delighted by the VR applications we’ve designed to be immersive, compelling and useful.

Useful is a big theme for us at AiSolve.  We strive to create real tools out of VR software, to solve real problems in the workplace and in leisure spaces. In other words, create VR apps that are useful.

In the aviation industry specifically, VR is an authentic and useful tool. In fact, VR has been used within airlines for some time but due to the high cost, was reserved for training commercial (and military) pilots only. Flight simulators, the immersive training platform of choice, have become fairly common over the decades but never less expensive. In fact, that high cost of flight simulator tech has never dropped enough in price to jump it out of its context and be applied in other aviation training fields. Until now.

When consumer-grade VR hardware such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive arrived in 2015, simulation applications suddenly got a whole lot cheaper and easier to transition to VR. 2017 translation: a form of training once reserved for the most elite of the air industry could now be provided at scale to aviation professionals at a fraction of the old price.  Now, baggage handlers and security personnel can optimize their job performance. Runway maintenance and aircraft operations personnel can hone their skills—all within the cost-effective, convenient and customizable immersive environment offered by AiSolve’s VRSims platform.

By the end of the day, it felt like each Heathrow employee we put through VRSims came out of the headset with at least one idea for how to apply the technology as a solution to a problem in their department. Given how we’ve begun to work with Central Bedfordshire College on the Immersive Training Institute, which will reimagine how students and employees are trained, that’s a terrific sign.

WePlayVR had a different effect on Heathrow staff. Instead of coming out of the headset inspired to tackle a problem, people exited WePlayVR feeling fully transported to another world. We took staffers into the depths of an ancient Mayan temple and lead them through a nuclear reactor under attack by aliens with our turn-key single-player VR attraction. They loved every minute of it. Check out the photos below for evidence of their excitement and read on to see how they felt WePlayVR will fit into Heathrow’s airport experience.

Passenger engagement. It’s having a moment in the airport industry these days.  Long queue lines, lengthy layovers and the stress of flying all take a toll on travelers.  Airports are becoming proactive in reducing this travel stress and looking for unique solutions.  One way to support passengers as they move about the globe is to offer entertainment and relaxation between flights.  Whether for a whole family or single flyers, WePlayVR is a fully immersive experience that is engagement focused.  As we develop our games for WePlay the first design mandate we have is to create transportive engagement so naturally we were thrilled that Heathrow execs and staffers responded so enthusiastically to the platform.  In WePlayVR we offer the ability to transport passengers to other worlds before the airlines have their crack at it, but with the ability to do it effortlessly and with much more leg room.

The aviation industry is an exciting area for virtual reality development and AiSolve is pleased to be establishing partnerships and relationships that foster innovation for airports and airlines around the world. It was a pleasure to share just a few of our VR product innovations with Heathrow, plus support and inspire their long-term thinking around the technology.  We’d like to especially thank Heathrow’s innovation team and CEO John Holland-Kaye for the invitation and warm reception.