USA TODAY - Google Glass, the wearable computer that doctors and schoolchildren are experimenting with, is now making its way into the airline industry.
Virgin Atlantic today began a pilot program in which its concierges in the Upper Class lounge at London's Heathrow Airport will don Google Glass to check in passengers.
They'll be able to give passengers their latest flight information and tell them about the weather and events at their destinations. They can also translate foreign language information. Eventually, the technology could tell Virgin Atlantic staff their passengers' food and drink preferences.
"We continue to look ahead and research innovations that customers might only dream of today," says Dave Bulman, director of information technology for Virgin Atlantic. "The whole industry needs to listen to what these passengers are calling for, and keep innovating to bring a return to the golden age of air travel. Flying should be a pleasure, not a chore."
The travel industry, and airlines in particular, has never been known to be in the forefront of adopting the latest in technology. But some experts see potential benefits in the use of Google Glass to provide better customer service.
"We are still a ways from widespread applications and adoption, and there are functional limitations today," says Douglas Quinby, vice president of research for market research firm PhocusWright. " We're not going to be planning and booking our big dream vacations on Glass anytime soon, but Glass definitely allows us to envision where things are headed."
Virgin Atlantic is working with SITA, the information technology company specializing in the air transport industry, on the six-week pilot project. If it goes well, the airline will potentially roll it out to other airports.
"2014 is shaping up to be the breakout year for wearable technology, and Virgin Atlantic is the first to bring its vision to reality," says Jim Peters, chief technology officer for SITA.
Still in the testing phase, Google Glass has been used by doctors and classroom teachers. It's scheduled to be made available to the public sometime this year.