Finding Your Happy Place
In early June of this year, we participated in a post-pandemic-themed hackathon hosted by an international airline. The airline took a proactive stance to employ new and divergent solutions to ensure staff and passengers' health and safety, restore confidence in the travel industry, and boost brand loyalty.
We have witnessed how stressful flying during the pandemic has been, so this was an opportunity to consider the passengers' mental wellbeing while rebuilding the trust in flying again.
"...this was an opportunity to consider the passengers' mental wellbeing..."
An article from Psychiatric Times examined how the pandemic has already led to a diversity in mental health problems including PTSD, and other trauma and stress-related disorders. How would this mental trauma affect future travel trends, and what could we do to remedy it?
The Airport Ritual
Whether you're flying economy or a higher class, you're getting to the airport early and waiting. Most of your favourite amenities are shuttered for safety reasons or due to financial woes. Sadly, there's less to do between your audiobook, pacing the halls, and sanitizing your hands at the new airport experience.
For whatever reason, you have to take this trip, and it's nice to get back on a plane again, but the pandemic PTSD weighs heavily on you. You need a safe and calming space to call your own, even for 20 minutes. You require peace and a sense of joy in a world full of chaos and uncertainty.
Computer, Load Program 'Relax'
Inspired by the Holodecks' functionality in Star Trek, we saw how environments, even facsimiles, can have a positive mental impact on people. Through escapism, we wanted to replicate those healing properties to help make the travel experience more enjoyable in the end.
The modern Holodeck won't turn energy into matter and let you explore a near-infinite space, but it will undoubtedly provide the illusion of that from the comfort of your yoga mat or bean bag chair. We can transport the immersive environments using either off-the-shelf video projectors, which are more modular and a lower entry point, or more expensive but higher-quality LED walls.
We explored designing and installing a series of immersion rooms that would immerse guests in an array of calming visuals, sounds, and scents to calm the mind and prepare for their journey.
Cognizant of real estate limitations, we designed both embedded rooms and modular pods to meet space uncertainty. The rooms would be a health benefit available to all passengers, though, intended initially for premium airline rewards members. Regardless of how you would access these rooms, the experience would undoubtedly be more impactful than the standard bedside white noise machine or a crowded yoga room.
Through a mobile app, passengers can book available time slots that stagger use times, traffic flow and allow for social distancing and proper cleaning procedures after every use. They can personalize the immersion by selecting serene environments, soundtracks, and aromas, or choose from several staff-picks or localized exclusive experiences. It's about finding your happy place, where ever that might be.
With individual governments relaxing travel restrictions and restoring amenities and services we took for granted, we have questioned the relevance of an immersion room targeted at airline passengers. Regardless of the situation in the next six to twelve months, it's still a fascinating concept to explore.
Beyond the Airport
The concept has merit outside of airport terminals. Life post-pandemic could be more stressful than before, so the need for an outlet to unwind and balance the mind would be welcomed, especially if people can access a room at their convenience.
Beyond the airports, we can see the use of these immersive rooms support marketing and sales initiatives. From real estate to travel & tourism, we can adapt our immersive spaces to deliver those unique experiences, like a luxury condo or a tropical destination tour. Being transported into that environment makes for a more enriching experience.