We caught up with Petter Hörnfeldt, airline pilot and creator of the awesome Mentour 360 App, to discuss virtual reality, apps and overcoming a fear of flying…
Could you tell me a little bit about your role with Mentour and how the company began?
My role in the company is creative director and subject expert. Me and my team work constantly to develop new content ideas based around what we think our costumers would enjoy and benefit from. Then I discuss with our developer and film crew to see what is actually possible.
Why did you decide to create the MENTOUR 360 VR app?
I have been running a YouTube channel called Mentour Pilot for about 18 months, and through my channel I sensed a big need and interest in visiting the flight deck in order to see and understand what goes on in the cockpit. After the terrible 9/11 attacks it became almost impossible for people outside of the airline industry to get access to the cockpit, so using Virtual Reality I have found a way of giving people that experience once more – a real immersive experience showing what it’s like being a pilot.
Could you explain a little bit about the app?
The app is essentially a 360-degree video player that shows me and my colleague Holly flying and carrying out some pretty challenging manoeuvres in a Boeing 737-800. We selected the manoeuvres based on questions from my YouTube channel.
The camera is situated so that the “user” will feel like she/he is sitting on the centre spare-seat, in between Holly and I. During the manoeuvres I am instructing both Holly, who is a student pilot, and the user.
The app is intended to be used together with briefing videos available on our homepage: www.mentour360.com. The idea is that the user should start by watching the briefing videos which are about 15 minutes long, then watch the actual manoeuvre. By doing this we closely mimic an actual training session for pilots which always include a briefing, a sim session and a de-briefing.
I always point out that this app is not a training tool (yet) but is to be used for entertainment primarily. The app gives the possibility to scroll along a timeline, stop the videos and watch in both mono and VR mode, so it can be used with or without VR glasses.
For the best experience we recommend a good VR headset such as Google Cardboard or our own specially designed VR headset the DSCVR, and earphones.
Is the App it purely for entertainment?
Yes, and the reason is that we do not follow any specific company procedures and, since I am training Holly, there are some minor mistakes made that should not be reproduced. It can be used as a general guide but not for operational purposes.
What potential uses do you see for the app going forward?
I am hoping to use this application as a first example of what we can do with this type of technology. This application is my first step towards training implementation and I am already working on my next app that will be very similar but will involve the “user” even more and will show different exercises.
Eventually I am hoping to use this technology as a complementing tool in Multi Crew Cooperation courses for pilots and even recurrent training.
It has been shown that the brain learns up to 76% more effectively when it feels like it has “experienced” something than if you simply read something.
This makes me think that there is huge potential for this type of application in all aspects of training within the airline industry. Not only for pilots, but cabin crew, ground crew and even gate personnel.
Aviation training is traditionally very expensive so I am hoping that this technology could help reduce costs for both airlines and students.
Personally I’m not a great flier – do you feel that this app, or VR in general could help people overcome their fears of flying? And if so, how would this work?
I am currently working on an app specifically for this use, which I hope to have available before the end of the year if I can find sponsors interesting in investing. There are great ways of using VR to calm people down, ranging from letting people practice takeoff and landing from the cabin, to raising awareness of what goes on in the cockpit.
What do you hope to achieve with VR in the airline industry going forward?
I am hoping to revolutionise it! I think that, given I get access to the right partners and resources we will be able to use this technology to cut costs of simulator use, use of cabin mock-ups for training, increase effectiveness of airline recurrent training and many more things. The sky is NOT the limit.
You offer other services on your website – what else in VR, AR and 360 filming are you offering the B2B market?
At the moment we are offering companies the chance to showcase their company through a Virtual Reality application that we can create for them. I have been focusing mainly on aviation training organisations that want to show of their simulators, aircrafts and training facilities in an effective way. Traditionally that has been done with open days where potential costumers can come and see these things but with a VR app they can go in and see everything from the comfort of their own sofa.
This is of course true for any company that has the need to showcase their products or facilities to a global audience.
We offer a low-cost package where we can build an application for the costumer that we own but they can fill with their own videos and brand. We can also build costume applications where companies can have their app delivered and submitted to the platforms of their choice and with whatever content they choose. We can deliver 360 video to company websites as well but we are focusing mainly on the first two options and our own in-house applications.
The DSCVR headset that we sell through our website is a simple but high quality viewing headset. We see it as a great way to start experiencing this technology in a low cost way.
VR & AR World 2016, London Excel
This October sees the first ever VR & AR World event come to London’s Excel! If you’d like to meet other VR and AR professionals, find out what’s happening in the world of virtual and augmented reality from expert speakers from a range of industries, or exhibit your products or business, please visit the official VR & AR World website.