Posted on: 12 June 2015 by Mark Howells
This month, three of Virgin America’s aircraft are being installed with a Beta version of its Red inflight entertainment (IFE) system built on Android-based software with help from Panasonic Avionics Corporation.
Immediate changes include higher resolution Panasonic EcoV2 capacitive touch monitors with pinch and swipe functionality similar to any mobile device. The monitors are also capable of supporting HD content with 720p resolution and offer four times faster HD image rendering.
These screens will allow passengers to play retro games like Atari’s Asteroids and Pac-Man with enhanced quality, as well as enjoy more interactive maps.
More storage capacity allows the Red Beta platform to host three times as much content – including full seasons of popular shows, such as seasons 1 and 2 of "Orange is the New Black" and "House of Cards", for example.
Furthermore, the platform will allow for what Virgin America claims is a ‘first-in-the-sky’ surround-sound listening experience on selected content provided in coordination with California-based Dysonics.The company is encoding Red’s content in order to create a 3D sound experience for any pair of headphones allowing passengers to hear sounds moving from side to side, from front to back and up and down to feel like the action is happening all around them.
Starting this month, surround sound will be offered fleet-wide on both the classic Red and Red Beta systems on select content.
“As the only airline based in Silicon Valley and one known for pushing the envelope in the IFE space, we’re thrilled to launch our Red Beta product. Although travellers will immediately notice some changes like capacitive touchscreens, a lot more content, and enhanced maps and videogames, we’re really excited about the longer-term capabilities the new Android-based software foundation enables,” said Ken Bieler, director of cabin systems, product design and innovation, Virgin America. “Although airline product development cycles are typically measured in decades, not years, the new platform gives us the ability to iterate much more quickly. Our intent is to build a next generation of Red that again breaks the mould for the industry – and offers our travellers an even richer, more interactive experience.”
“The result of our first collaboration with Virgin America was the award-winning Red system. It set a new standard in many ways. The new Red Beta platform is a natural evolution and proof of the platform’s ability to grow with changing technology and market demands,” added Paul Margis, president and CEO, Panasonic Avionics Corporation. “We believe Red Beta is a winning proposition for Virgin America and their guests.”
The Red Beta IFE platform is due to be outfitted on 18 aircraft by the end of 2015 and will continue to roll out to the rest of the fleet in 2016.