Airline says Google Glass lets its staff maintain eye contact with VIP passengers – who find this reassuring and not creepy
Virgin Atlantic’s trial of Google Glass to make flying a ‘more luxurious’ experience has been a great success, a company spokesman said today.
Speaking today at the Wearable Technology Show in London, Tim Graham from Virgin Innovation outlined how feedback from customers who have experienced the new service has been very positive, and that the company will now look to extend the trial further.
Graham took to the stage alongside Kevin O’Sullivan, the lead engineer at SITA Labs, which developed the software used in the trial by Virgin Atlantic hosts equipped with Google Glass and Sony smartwatches.
The airline carried out a six week trial in its upper-class wing, with VIP passengers at London’s Heathrow airport getting to experience the new service.
Upon arrival, these passengers were met by Virgin Atlantic staff wearing Google Glass, who were able to identify travellers and begin their check-in process immediately. SITA’s software was also able to provide the Virgin Atlantic staff with the latest flight information, the weather at the passengers’ destination and translate any foreign language details.
Crucially, the trial helped reduce the number of times that a Virgin Atlantic agent had to go behind a desk to look something up for a passenger, which would break eye contact – apparently vital to ensuring a “VIP customer experience”. The new devices also negated the need for any radio communications between staff, as all the information needed for each passenger was available through the unit.
Graham was complimentary about the battery life of Glass, saying that the devices easily lasted through an entire shift, which could be anywhere between eight and ten hours. However the trial was not without its hiccups, as Graham noted that connectivity to the Glass devices was not always reliable, due in part to the mobile 3G networks being used in conjunction with a Bluetooth connection, although once the staff switched to a Wi-Fi network, this was much improved.
Virgin Atlantic justified the whole trial with the results of a poll it conducted last month, which found that 53 percent of UK passengers believed flying to be less glamorous than it used to be, with many asking for technological improvements such as on-board Wi-Fi.
“By being the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve customer experience, we are upholding Virgin Atlantic’s long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience,” Dave Bulman, Virgin Atlantic’s director of IT, said at the trial’s launch.
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