These new wraparound headsets help fliers forget they’re on a plane
It may seem like there’s an arms race among airlines that are eager to stand out from the crowd by offering new and unique forms of entertainment on flights. Well, French start-up Skylights believes it has created a product that does just that.
Skylights Theater aims to be a fresh option for in-flight entertainment (IFE). It’s a lightweight (less-than-a-pound) headset that offers an immersive, 2D/3D cinema experience on a wide-angle, high-definition screen that no one but the wearer can see.
Four major airlines based in Europe and the Middle East will soon start trials of Skylights Theater. XL Airways has already begun onboard testing after the success of offering Samsung tablets for rent to passengers.
“It’s a better experience than a seat-back display,” Raphaëlle Juillet, Skylights’ communications and marketing director, tells Tnooz.
“When you fly on long haul flights the viewing experience is not very comfortable because the screen is small and you can see everything around you….
“With this device you can’t see or hear your neighbors and they can’t see what you’re watching. It makes time fly.”
Users feel like they are watching a movie on a large cinema screen and don’t have to move their head around like a traditional virtual reality headset.
The wireless headset claims an eight-hour battery life — longer than any other similar device — and enough memory for 40 HD films.
The next version will also allow for content to be streamed to the headset. (Users simply plug their headphones into the device.)
More than just providing a technical product, the company offers a service package, too: Skylights provides the glasses with software, flight servicing, and device management. It even offers to take care of the licensing necessary for the entertainment. Says Juillet:
“All that’s left is for the crew to hand out the devices onboard and return them after use….”
“The feedback has been ecstatic… Skylights Theater has a 99% satisfaction rate, 90% recommendation rate, 84% readiness to rent, and 52% free usage rate.”
Sklights says there a couple of revenue models they’re exploring with their new product. For one, airlines could charge a fee to passengers who want to use them during a flight.
“We don’t have an exact price yet, but it will probably be around 15 to 20 euros,” says Juillet.
“The revenues are then shared with the airline, allowing them to create ancillary revenues.” Or, airlines could rent headsets from the company and allow passengers to use them for free, particularly in premium cabins.
Skylights was founded in 2014 by Florent Bolzinger (CTO), who has a Ph.D. in biomechanical engineering, and David Dicko (CEO), who was previously an airline pilot for a decade. The two decided to partner up after meeting at the HEC MBA program in Paris, France.
They first built their device on their own. They eventually gathered a team, now up to 10 members. After one year, and seven versions, the device is finally what they had in mind.
The project was initially financed by funds from the founders and loans. Dicko is confident he’s going to raise all the funds necessary within a few months from now.