In the VR-Hyperspace project, Fraunhofer IAO has teamed up with eight partners from six European countries to investigate how flight journeys can be made into a more pleasant experience using virtual reality. As part of the project, Fraunhofer IAO has employed state-of-the-art lighting and display technologies to develop an airplane cabin in which test subjects can immerse themselves in their own preferred personal environment.

Participants use virtual reality to get the impression of a transparent airplane cabin. (Oliver Stefani, Fraunhofer IAO)
Fraunhofer IAO has developed an airplane cabin mock-up whereby test subjects wearing 3D glasses sit in real airplane seats and can immerse themselves almost completely in virtual worlds: the backs of the seats are covered in display surfaces, flat-screen televisions are fitted in the floor, and 14 projectors can display images on the cabin walls. In combination with head tracking, this means passengers can experience the flight as if they were on a flying carpet.

At the push of a button, travelers can make the airplane walls transparent or bring up images of the palm-lined beach they are traveling to. If they are bothered by the seats in front of them, they can make those transparent, too. They can block out the sound of screaming kids, and nervous flyers can display images of tropical islands or of a gentle stream flowing through a wood. The virtual environment allows business travelers to work with standard office applications while enjoying the sunshine on a desert island.

The subjects of the first test flights responded positively to the transparent airplane cabin. The scenarios permitted them to endure an uncomfortable situation for longer, and time seemed to pass quicker for them.