Windowless Plane Cabins Could Be The Strange Future of Air Travel

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Eyeing the passing world far below is probably one of the essential pleasures of flying in any plane. However, this near-universal flier’s pastime might become less common one day.

Digital aviation technology company Rosen Aviation is betting on a so-called next-level flight view experience in which the windows of passenger flights aren’t needed anymore.

What the U.S. –based air tech company wants to see might instead look similar to the cabin designs featured in its new “Maverick Project”, which hopes to replace real windows with virtual versions.

According to Rosen’s senior VP for strategy, Lee Clark, “The Maverick Project was born from trying to bring tomorrow’s technology into tomorrow’s plane,” This nebulously defined technology of tomorrow includes digitally rendered “window” displays and numerous touchless controls with holograms and futuristic aesthetics.

Some of these features already exist in many ground and sea-based uses today according to Clark, but are still distinctly lacking in the air.

Thus, Rosen is betting on a whole new niche for digital display technology, or as Clark claims, “The Maverick Project originated because the industry at large is somewhat lagging behind the domestic, residential and automotive worlds,”.

Rosen is also working collaboratively with other companies like KiPcreating and Sky-Style to deliver visual digital technologies that most of all include virtual windows for planes. With this in mind, the Maverick Project is about using rendered visuals that are good enough to be almost invisible when used first in private jets and later in commercial flights as part of the first-class experience. Eventually, these could filter down to coach seating areas in commercial aircraft.

According to Clark, a new commercial prototype version of its virtual windows will be on exhibit at next year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany.

Rosen’s Maverick Project virtual windows concept has already won previous event recognition since it first premiered as a concept in 2020. This includes having been shortlisted as a finalist at the 2021 Crystal Cabin Awards.

Although the Maverick Project’s overall package of virtual visual technologies includes many design elements and practical aspects, it’s the digital “window” displays that have caused the most controversy for observers.

Rosen’s strategy VP attempts to frame this interest as an outgrowth of the technology’s potential by claiming that “It seems the virtual skylights and virtual windows are among the hottest of topics because they bring in that ability to incorporate augmented reality, some artificial intelligence, and they transform that little porthole window we’ve been living with for decades into something more immersive.”

However, there might be other, more obvious factors at play: The idea of a virtual window truly emulating the reality one sees when looking through glass is a bit hard to swallow. Even if these Maverick designs deliver exquisite visual quality with cutting-edge technologies like OLED screens with HDR, it might still be difficult to eliminate the subtle flatness of digital graphics, or a viewer’s knowledge that they’re not seeing reality directly.

These digital windows may offer a highly “immersive” visual experience and the useful accessories of overlapping information visuals for passing landscapes, but how much truly complete realism will they create?

Enough, the idea has its merits, and the Maverick Project isn’t the first-ever attempt at creating deep visuals for windowless planes. Major airlines like Emirates have proposed immersive virtual windows for fully enclosed first-class private suites. Furthermore, removing windows from most of a commercial or private plane’s hull would have structural integrity.

With all that said, however, many people might find the idea of digital rendering creating a genuinely, totally realistic approximation of real windows absurd. For many, it could even induce a certain level of claustrophobia knowing that nothing in your isolated steel tube even lets you look at the real world outside.

Regardless, Clark claims that the response from test audiences has been overwhelmingly positive, though he refuses to claim any specific test details. He also affirms that the main aim of the Maverick Project’s fake window technology is about journey enhancement for travelers, not just realistically seeing external scenery.

For people who don’t quite buy into the notion of digitally rendered landscapes replacing the single most beautiful part of soaring in the skies, the good news is that virtual windows such as Rosen’s still have several technical, budgetary, and regulatory obstacles to bypass. In the meantime, private jet charters can continue to be enjoyed by letting you revel in really seeing the depth of the real world pass below.

Photo Credit: Rosen Aviation