New Visual Tools For Aircraft Emergency Briefings
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he was telling the American people that their fear was making things worse. That truism has equal applicability to the passengers’ lack of knowledge about what to do in the event of an aircraft emergency. The FAA (14 CFR §121.291) requires that before departure the cabin crew brief the passengers about the safety equipment and procedures to use and follow in such a crisis. The elements which must be recited during this period, Advisory Circular 121-24C, PASSENGER SAFETY INFORMATION BRIEFING AND BRIEFING CARDS.
It is well recognized that passengers are not always attentive during this important safety information. Flight attendants and airlines have adopted deliveries intended to overcome the usual ennui:
Even with these creative efforts to grab the passengers’ attention, the messages are not always received.
In that context the research by Italy’s University of Udine’s HCI Lab was important, particularly since its conclusions contradicted the airline commonly held opinions that more detailed explanation would increase the fear among their customers. The university’s work “found that passengers are more likely to properly learn safety procedures from a 3D game like this, than from a safety card placed in the seatback in front of them once they’re on a plane.” Further, the study determined that the passengers’ having viewed 3D, interactive videos of disasters the “travelers were less doom and gloom about something going wrong during a flight, because they had already experienced the possible dire outcomes, and were more confident about surviving them.”
The university produced Prepare For Impact, an unsettling Oculus Rift virtual reality demo that simulated what it was like to be inside a plane during an emergency landing in water. That initial work has been expanded to include “emergencies such as a fire on the plane, or a collision during takeoff, from a first-person perspective. And as the emergency unfolds, players are able to control their character as they’re given instructions and directions on how to best survive the incident, and how to escape the plane when it’s all over.”