Virgin Atlantic to trial Xbox Kinect technology to create ‘intelligent cabin’ as it eyes AR opportunities

Virgin Atlantic is to use Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect technology to read customer behaviour and movement that will create an "intelligent" cabin it can pull insights from on customers.

Speaking to The Drum, Debbie Hulmes, head of customer experience at Virgin Atlantic, said the tie-up with the technology giant gives it control of different aspects of the inflight experience, such as temperature, lighting and positioning of seats, in real time as consumers move around the aircraft,

“We’re looking at the Kinect technology to really see if we can read consumer behaviour and movement in the cabin to understand at an individual level what is the most comfortable place for you to work, to sleep to eat and how we might develop that intelligence in to an on board product to tailor it far more to the individual customer," Hulmes.

The partnership with Microsoft kicked off this weekend when all customers on board the Virgin Atlantic flight to Boston were handed a Windows 8.1 tablet to track Santa Claus as they flew across the Atlantic.

Initially, passengers were able to watch his journey on a dedicated app before he appeared to ‘land on the plane’ via a portable, Wi-Fi enabled, Philips projector, which relayed a video loop of Santa wiping away the snow on the roof to land his sleigh.

Virgin brand and consumer engagement director Reuben Arnold said the idea behind working with Microsoft was spawned by the desire to merge the physical and digital worlds to create a unique experience. The partnership follows a similar venture with Google Glass and the Sony Smartwatch in its customer lounge,

Arnold said: “This isn’t about us trying to use clever tech for the sake of using clever tech, it was first and foremost [about] how we create something really unique and how to bring together the physical and digital worlds together to create that uniqueness.”

He also revealed to The Drum that in addition to the watching the wearable tech space, Virgin Atlantic is also eyeing potential augmented reality opportunities as devices such as Google Cardboard become more common place among its passengers.

“We have to think about how can we curate that [augmented reality] experience and what content we can provide them in-flight to add to that experience," added Arnold.

"Wearable tech is something we will continue to look at, primarily because that’s something our customers will experience more and more. More and more of our customers will have wearable tech so it’s important that we keep up with that trend.”

Another potential area of investment is gaming during flights, added Arnold. The insight stems from more than 200 people simultaneously using the Santa tracking app during the weekend flight. Those games could be played within the cabin, with other flights or from the flight and the ground.

The Kinect trial will be deployed on the plane’s return flight this week.

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