This year’s Crystal Cabin “Visionary Concepts” award winner offers passengers the virtual reality experience of flying on a commercial jetliner without the hassle of actually traveling.
The 12th Annual Crystal Cabin Awards held in conjunction with the “Aircraft Interiors Expo” in Hamburg, Germany each spring doesn’t have the star power or glamour of a Hollywood award show, but for frequent flyers, these nominees and winners have the potential to affect a business traveler’s life for the better in ways that even the most inspiring cinematic masterpiece could not hope to achieve. Innovations from a few of this year’s winners can already be spotted in aircraft cabins around the globe. Other awards are reserved for unsung and behind the scenes improvements while a few concepts are so cutting edge that the ideas recognized might not see the light of day for decades – if ever.
The Spanish technology firm Renacen took home the coveted prize for “Visionary Concepts” with a virtual reality program that promises to allow customers to test seats in the plane before settling on which seat assignment option to choose. The technology, developed in conjunction with Emirates, is designed to let passengers “test drive” seats in a 360-degree, 3D panorama at the time of purchase with a much more complete seat view technology than that which is already offered by some sport and music venues.
“Have you ever wondered how it would be to watch in a first person view the seat that you are about to purchase, before actually buying it? Now you can do it, thanks to 3D SeatMapVR,” the company explains in an online demo. “Using a clear, simple and functional interface which integrates in the purchase process, get to know, during the purchase, what your seat offers to you, how wide it is, the leg room available, where it is placed related to toilets, to the aisle, the materials it is made of, extras, etc.”
Awards for somewhat less flashy, but equally important improvements in the way we fly included the “Materials and Components” category, won by Airbus and the innovative 3D printing firm Altran for a newly developed “printed electrics” process. In a fun bit of trivia, Altran was also tasked to print the trophies awarded at this year’s Crystal Cabin ceremonies.
In the “inflight Entertainment and Connectivity” or IFEC as serious Crystal Cabin fans call the category, the Bluebox Aviation Systems IFE platform for the visually impaired took home top honors. Qatar Airways Q Suites was named best “Cabin Concept.” A virtually indestructible heated cabin floor panel designed by Villinger won the trophy for more important “Greener Cabin, Health, Safety and Environment” improvement and Rockwell Collins was recognized in the “Passenger Comfort Hardware” for its revolutionary business class “Valkyrie Bed” – a convertible seat that includes its very own mattress.
Rockwell Collins picked up a second award in the category of “Cabin Systems” for their Silhouette MOVE – a common sense cabin partition which is bowed to allow passengers behind the divider extra legroom. Meanwhile, Cranfield University in the UK took home the top prize in the “University” category for their E-tom Smart Water nebulization system which could save up to 90 percent of the water currently carried on commercial passenger planes.
The event was emceed by Guinness Book of World Records “most travelled man” on the planet, Fred Finn. Finn left no doubt that the Crystal Cabin awards meant more to him than any glitzier award shows on television.
“Of course you develop routines and eventually you will also know the crew and the one or the other passenger,” told the nominees and prize winners. “But innovation for comfort, cuisine and entertainment will never stop surprising me.”