Creating a customisable, immersive inflight entertainment experience
Designing for the airline industry requires striking a balance between providing an exceptional experience for passengers and durability to withstand rigorous daily usage. As a result, products used in aircraft cabins must pass muster not just with clients, but also with testing specialists and regulators. Successful airline cabin accessories will often be used for 20 years or more, making it crucial to find the right products.
Panasonic Avionics Corporation, the world’s leading inflight entertainment and connectivity provider, sought to improve the experience of airline passengers globally.
We partnered with Panasonic Avionics and industry experts Recaro Airline Seating and Acumen Design Associates to design a new seat-back video-viewing console. The new console provides a unique high-end entertainment experience for consumers that is easy to upgrade and repair for airlines.
Our consumer electronics and entertainment industry design experts developed a series of screen sizes, each uniquely configured with variable, upgradable peripheral bars with remote controls housed below the screen. Because the bars can be removed and replaced without impacting the display screen developed by Panasonic Avionics, the system can be easily built upon and upgraded over time. This is an inflight entertainment solution designed to remain relevant for many years of service, ultimately reducing a range of maintenance and upgrade expenses.
The displays include a programmable LED lighting system to improve user visibility, align with brand aesthetics, or just to set the mood in the cabin.
- Created a range of video displays with customisable peripheral bars for use across airlines, seat types, flight classes and screen sizes
- Decreased total entertainment system weight by 30 percent, supporting airline operational expenses and sustainability initiatives
- Ensured the new modern, timeless, display system would meet demanding international airline regulatory requirements.
Forecasting the future of inflight entertainment
Airline industry designers and developers are tasked with providing a positive experience for travellers while meeting strict safety and durability requirements. Regulators subject new products to rigorous scrutiny. For example, the US Federal Aviation Administration’s guide to product certification runs 107 pages. Designers for in-cabin products must consider daily usage, as well as factors such as turbulence and unexpected consumer behaviours – passengers may hold onto screens as they pull themselves out of their seats, potentially damaging both screens and seats.
Creating a flexible, customisable solution
To design a product that pleased customers and regulators alike, we assembled a team with experience in consumer electronics, user experience, and industrial and hardware design to create a future-flexible hardware solution. The Astrova displays needed to accommodate different seat types and screen sizes for various airlines and passenger classes. In addition, technology will evolve over the next 20 years, so the hardware needed to be upgradable.
The team began by seeking to understand the passenger experience, as travellers connect with airline entertainment before, during, and after their flights. We held collaborative workshops with frequent flyers from around the globe, developed use cases for the different flight classes, built 3D printed and physical mock-ups, and conducted consumer testing. The work involved close coordination with both the Panasonic Avionics design team, industry experts, as well as airplane seat and component vendors.
Together, we created a common design language and concepts that enable travellers to replicate their on-the-ground device experience in the air. We considered different screen angles and positions and sought to develop features consumers would enjoy and be able to easily access.
The console is also designed to prevent abuse. Passengers are unable to use it as a lever to lift themselves, reducing the possibility of damage. It is also built for modularity, with easy-to-swap-out components for quick upgrades or repairs when needed. In addition, the minimal use of extra structural materials helped streamline the design and reduce the weight of the console by up to 30 percent, measurably improving aircraft fuel economy.
- We developed ambient LED lighting for an immersive customer experience (October 2021)
- Our team found that slanting the console towards passengers makes it easier to access controls and connectors (November 2021)
- The team created a flexible video-viewing system with built-in controls designed to fit different screen sizes (February 2022)
Preparing for a global launch
Our design work for the Astrova inflight displays and the supporting hardware took place in late 2021, and was followed by product development, testing, and compliance. The console is slated to be installed in customers’ planes globally in 2025. However, Panasonic Avionics is marketing the new solution now. The company has also filed for a patent for the console design, to protect its intellectual property.