Window or aisle? It may not matter much in the future of air travel as Emirates Airlines looks to replace real windows with virtual ones. The airline has unveiled a new first-class suite featuring virtual windows that swap see-through glass with images projected from outside the plane streamed from fiber-optic cameras affixed to the plane’s exterior.
The airline says the virtual windows are “paving the way for removing all windows from future planes,” per the BBC. It’s not just a gimmick, either. Getting rid of windows makes planes lighter, faster, more fuel-efficient, and more structurally sound. What’s not clear is how flight personnel will be able to see outside the plane in the case of emergency (that’s why flight attendants make you raise your blind on landing, by the way). Undoubtedly there is a tech workaround for that, too.
The virtual windows can be found in the first-class cabin of Emirates’ newest Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The virtual windows were originally announced last year as a way for the airline to ensure that every first-class suite had a window—even if they were in the middle of the plane. Each of the plane’s center suites had a set of three panels mounted on the wall, which looked like regular oval airplane windows, but were, in fact, a high-resolution display showing images of the outdoors beamed in from cameras. While it sounds like a recipe for claustrophobia—and I can’t afford to test it myself—the reviews of the virtual windows are quite positive.
Emirates isn’t the only travel company considering getting rid of windows. Royal Caribbean’s state rooms of the future swap real portholes for virtual ones, broadcasting images of nature that created a peaceful and beautiful environment in the room—even if you couldn’t open the window to yack out of when you got seasick.