Thales (Stand 845) is demonstrating a futuristic in-flight entertainment (IFE) system using eye-tracking and gesture controls here at Dubai 2013. It could enter into service in two to three years from now in business and first classes, according to Christopher Mondragon, product design senior manager.
The passenger can choose between eye-tracking, gesture and a conventional remote control. The eye-tracking starts with a quick calibration phase. The cursor is then controlled by eye movements and the equivalent of clicking is staring at the desired selection. Eye tracking automatically pauses if the passenger looks away for conversation or falls asleep, Mondragon explained.
Gesture control is relatively close in its principle but the sensor looks for the palm of a hand, instead of a pair of eyes, and needs no calibration. In addition, the IFE system features directional sound, where only the seated passenger can hear the loudspeakers. A reverse application could be noise-cancellation, Mondragon suggested.
The technology exists at the consumer level, he said. “We will have to find an airline partner and then start a two- to three-year certification and integration process.” Thales will ruggedize the hardware against electromagnetic interference, flammability and other environmental factors. In addition, the equipment manufacturer will talk to the seat manufacturer that the airline chooses to integrate IFE into the seat.