I’m writing this whilst watching the west coast of Ireland slowly edge towards the right side of the moving map as the huge expanse of blue representing the Atlantic Ocean slowly takes over the entire inflight entertainment screen.
Despite the low resolution graphics, limited (nay minimal) geographical information and the display language flipping rhythmically between Spanish and English – I, like many other fellow passengers, spend significant portions of our flight transfixed to the wonder that is the moving map.
Back in the heyday of the British Empire, Imperial Airways (which operated between 1924 and 1939) stated, “On an air route not an hour passes which does not bring something new or strange, beautiful or intriguing to our notice.”
Supporting passengers’ fascination with the earth far below – or simply allowing them to count down the hours until they land at their destination – the moving map has come a long way from the pixelated low-resolution maps of old. Current maps offer 3D imagery and the option to deviate from the flight path to look at specific land marks and zoom into ever greater detail – à la Google Earth.
Geo-Entertainment (or Geotainment) is a phrase being used to describe the new range of products and services that are based around geographical and historical information relevant to the location of an aircraft on, or around, its flight path.
Commenting on the increasing popularity of Geo-Entertainment, Ian Walberg, CEO of Airborne Interactive told the APEX editor’s blog, “Applications like Google Earth have increased the awareness and data availability and there’s now a huge amount of technical and software standards available, which 20 years ago was only accessible to the military, 10 years ago was super-expensive and now has become a commodity which is accessible.”
Utilising a ‘second screen’ handheld IFE remote or one’s own electronic device for displaying the moving map is “the perfect use for it”, says Walberg. Most people would find it entirely reasonable that the map is on one screen and the movie is on the other. With a glass of wine, a movie and a map I’ve got everything I need all at once.”
Working with Airborne Interactive to augment satellite geographical imagery, Ben Jarman, project manager for the UK’s Royal Geographic Society’s Hidden Journey’s project says, “Viewing the Earth from the air provides a unique perspective of the scale of the human and physical world.”
“The key to providing innovative and entertaining content lies in the informed interpretation and presentation of that content – it’s not just Google Maps!”, says Jarman.
At the APEX technology committee meeting last month in Burbank, California, Tyler Stirkel, co-founder of MondoWindow, reaffirmed the relevance and importance of Geo-Entertainment as airborne content saying, “Content is still King, but Context is the Pope.”
At this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo back in March the APEX Editor’s Blog interviewed Peter Nissen, MD of GeoRadio and Stuart Dunleavy, VP marketing and customer proposition at Thales, which are collaborating to bring their vision of Geo-Entertainment onto the Thales AVANT IFE system (see video below).
As Michael Palin CBE, president of the Royal Geographic Society says, “To my mind a journey without a view is a journey wasted. For this traveller looking out of the window is not only natural, it’s obligatory. So the Hidden Journeys project is a treasure trove. Hidden Journeys is, literally, about seeing the world. And you’ll never want an aisle seat again.”