Virtual Reality is coming to an Airport near you; and while you may see some of it in plain site...you also may not even know some of it's there. Indeed, you may soon have the option of killing time during your layover killing zombies in a virtual undead apocalypse. In the past, airports seem to have been very selective of what types of entertainment they explore. Whereas Noah Vanderhoff, founder of Noah’s arcade in Wayne’s World received his inspiration for starting his own arcade while seeing some teenagers pump 50 bucks in quarters into Pong during a layover in Tulsa, the arcade paradigm basically has all but alluded airports. The shopping mall business model has worked well enough for the arcade business, but its a bit curious why airports never cashed in. It's not of much surprise that Mark Cuban and fellow investors have just installed the very first video game lounge in a U.S. airport this year. A video game lounge seems an even more obvious addition than a traditional arcade and yet nobody has tried to put an Xbox or Playstation style video game system into a United States Airport until the year 2018.
While the mainstream has not yet adopted the VR set in the family room, virtual reality is becoming too omnipresent for even airports to resist the chance of revenue. Not surprisingly, whether people are willing to pay the big bucks for time in a fancy leather massage chair or pay quite the markup for massages from non-robotic masseuses it stands they are looking for recreation and relaxation during the hours they have before their flight. Indeed the potential for VR relaxation could be more popular than entertainment in airport VR. Both seem to make sense; zombies for the kids to blast while the parents get blasted on dopamine rushes from a mixture of haptic massage and color therapy. Perhaps what we'll be seeing is that the kids will stick to Xbox while the parents take turns in a VR relaxation station. The bottom line is that because it allows an escape from the madness of scores of people rushing around while you just sit there, people have time to waste in Airports and VR is the ultimate way to do so (besides booze). Showing up in plenty of time to make it through security and being lucky enough to make it through in much less time than you prepare for should be rewarded with something special, not punished with draining your cell phone battery and meandering off on a third putt round the duty free shops just to notice on the cover of Time that in Sri Lanka the nine members of the Asian Dawn Movement remain captive political prisoners.
Now this isn’t to say that wandering the airport aimlessly is without its benefits. You get a real sense of the grandeur of the operation that’s being run here. Isn't this place amazing? Hundreds of planes landing and taking off, flying in from all corners of the world, and they know the minute they're arriving. Of course if your flight from Houston’s been delayed you may wager they don’t know a darn thing.
Make no mistake, however, the inner workings of an airport are a high tech, naturally prone to high-stress environment. In a world of bizarre hijackings like SeaTac’s recent debacle, certainly airport security cannot mess around. Virtual Reality training can lend some unique approaches such as simulating emergencies where doors that would otherwise remain locked can be freely opened and entered at will without creating any undue security risk by having those doors actually opened during training simulations. New security personnel or perhaps special guests with security clearance could be shown every square foot of an airport in minutes, not hours. Of course, Augmented Reality offers potential for keeping track of suspicious individuals while security personnel are tracking them, seeing important pertinent information while simply on a routine inspection, or having incoming vital information sent to them instantly by the command center. Everybody wants to move through security as quickly as they can, and no one wants to hear another plane has been hijacked around Seattle until D.B. Cooper rides again. We’re entering an era where because of tech, security doesn’t need to be scarier, it can just be smarter. When it comes to emerging tech like VR and AR for airports; the sky’s the limit.