Panasonic Avionics, the world leader in inflight entertainment and communications (IFEC) solutions, has used the Aircraft Passenger Expo (APEX) to showcase both their internal R&D projects and innovative or up and coming technologies from around the tech industry. First in a separate section called the “Cool Room” and now on the main floor as innovation took center stage at their 2016 booth in Singapore. For the past six years, Neutral Digital has created airline passenger focused experiences that incorporate these new technologies. Including next generation multi-device UIs, Nod Gesture Rings, Leap Motion, Gear VR and this year Augmented Reality with the Hololens.
Panasonic asked Neutral Digital to develop an Augmented Reality (AR) Travel App to demonstrate how this technology could improve the passenger journey. We proposed to use the Microsoft Hololens, as it was the best mobile AR solution available, and having an untethered experience was paramount to the context of travel and mobility.
Neutral created a scenario where the passenger had just landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport, was to be guided to the baggage pickup, then picked a mode of transport to their hotel and finally explore the city on their way to a restaurant. We wanted to also showcase the two types of AR content: Widgets parented to the user, outside in view, and Immersive Context, inside out view.
Google TiltBrush on the HTC Vive was used to sketch the user experience, pre-visualise the content and map out the required 2D and 3D elements. The design process for widgets started as traditional 2D UI flow. Once the visual language and UI elements were created, we moved to a full 3D modeling pipeline. Finally, these 3D assets were imported into Unity for final assembly and animation by our 3D artists.
Despite the aggressive production timeline, we wanted to deliver a seamless and polished experience. Great care went into creating artist driven animated transitions and states for each of the elements. We then injected these individual elements into a Unity construct to create the overall experience. We made extensive use of the Unity Animation’s State Machine Behaviors and Animator parameters to synch the experience flow with the individual animations. Using them to drive not only the user’s progress but also elements like voice overs and interactions.
The final element of the journey was an immersive map of the area around the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, where our passenger was staying and also where APEX was held. Extensive work went into designing and optimising the content for the Hololens. A set of interactive point-of-interests were included for users to explore. Each included a short voice over description.
Voice overs provided both context and instructions to help the user through a fun and comfortable experience.
The target audience being mostly Airline Executives, Panasonic asked if we could start the experience by scanning a boarding pass. To do so, we used the beta version of Vuforia for Hololens. We designed and printed paper tickets to be used as trigger for the experience.
Neutral was on site for the duration of the show to manage the delivery. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The amazement, smiles and occasional expletives were a testament to their enjoyment of the experience.