Cabin technology appears to be moving at the speed of light, and more evidence of that rapid advance can be found here at the Thales exhibits in the form of eye-tracking and hand-gesture video controls.
The idea attracted considerable attention earlier this year at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, when the Thales exhibit drew long lines of visitors to test the technology. It also received a further boost when the Irvine, California-based company won first place with the idea in the Passenger Comfort Systems category of the annual Crystal Cabin Awards competition, held the day before the expo opened.
Eye tracking and gesture control, according to a Thales spokesman, “have been heralded as an important new technological development as the IFE market draws ever closer to consumer technologies.”
Watching the Thales system in Hamburg, hand gestures–up/down and right/left–were all that were required to scroll through the various windows, and resting one’s gaze for a second or two on a particular icon was all that was necessary for the system to pull up that particular page or document.
The use of eye tracking and hand gesture controls creates a man/machine interface, according to Thales, “whereby the field of view between the passenger’s eyes and hand is all within the same visual plane of the seat display. This effectively eliminates the need to constantly look down at a remote controller to make a selection.”
Thales (Concorde Hall, Stand 51) cites at least two reasons for getting rid of the traditional remote controller. First, the current generation of touch screens are expensive to make and certify and suffer from wear and tear, and second, the eye-tracking and hand-gesture system simplifies installation and maintenance by keeping the entire package in the seatback.