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Virtual reality headsets are coming to airlines

An Australian airline appears to be ahead of the pack in giving virtual reality headsets for in-flight entertainment.

012915 samsung gear vr virtual reality
Credit: Qantas

Australian airline Qantas recently announced a partnership with Samsung to provide the latter's Gear VR virtual reality headsets to its passengers.

The company says the headsets will provide unique content, like its airplanes during takeoff and landing or a 3D view of Sydney, and promises to eventually become a source for in-flight movies. For the time being – specifically, a three-month trial – the VR headsets will only be made available to first-class passengers (of course), and to those waiting for departure in the first-class lounges at the airports in Sydney and Melbourne.

Although the content that most people would watch during a flight – namely TVs and movies – is still limited for the Gear VR, the device has received largely positive reviews across the board. Particularly when it comes to watching movies, this Gizmodo review touted the Oculus Cinema app, which gives the user the feeling that he or she is sitting in a theater while a movie plays on a screen ahead of them. You can even look around at the other parts of the theater, like the empty seats next to you, which sounds almost as entertaining as watching the movie on the virtual screen.

Aside from a few operational concerns – primarily how well these headsets are cleaned between flights and how awkward it could be get passengers' attention while they're strapped to a VR headset – I could see complimentary VR headsets eventually becoming a regular part of flying. Enough people watch movies on their tablets, laptops, and smartphones today that in-flight movies are becoming an afterthought. At least until consumer-owned VR headsets become common enough, airlines could turn to virtual reality to try to set themselves apart.

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