KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is setting a course to a brand new destination — virtual reality. KLM, the flag carrier airline of the Netherlands, merged with Air France in 2004, and now has over 95,000 employees with offices located in Paris, France, Toulouse, France, Valbonne, France, and Amsterdam, Netherlands. The company has now landed in Glue, a Helsinki-based remote collaboration virtual reality (VR) platform, to aid their now virtual meetings.
Glue is a 3D virtual space where remote participants using VR (Quest and Steam) or on PCs (Mac and Windows) can collaborate using features like whiteboards, sharing videos, web pages, and presentations as they would in the physical world. Upon arriving at Glue, KLM employees are greeted with their own custom, spatial, persistent environment, which anyone can create or select from a library. “Glue’s virtual environments and spatial audio immerses users and creates agency and presence within the friendly, smooth, and soft designed space,” explained Jae Grant Maloney, New Technology Consultant at KLM. The CEO of Glue, Jussi Havu, says, working closely with customers like KLM is helping the company to prioritize their product roadmap. “The real-time feedback of our customers is really helping us optimize the platform for remote collaboration.”
In a pre-COVID era, KLM routinely flew employees to their offices around Europe for meetings. Like every other large enterprise, they spent millions on travel. Now, these same executives are experimenting with VR telepresence. It’s a more efficient use of their time, doesn’t disrupt their home life, and decreases KLM’s carbon footprint.
KLM is experimenting with virtual platforms to look into their own offerings for something virtual which can innovate and disrupt the airline industry. Their goal is to enhance the core product and experience of travel — redefining what it means to travel. Already, the company is utilizing VR training by recreating cockpits and planes for pilot flight simulations and emergency training for flight attendants and cabin crew.
KLM plans to offer destination experiences, similar to travel documentaries from the 1930s, in hopes of virtual travel converting to physical travel. “Only 15% of people travel 100km from their town. That means there are 85% of people that don’t travel,” says Maloney. “We need to make products for those that don’t travel by expanding into adjacent markets. VR can be utilized by passengers to visit a place before going, then really fly to the place, then visit the place again when they return home.” The future of travel may not involve a plane. Perhaps like Total Recall, it will be an implanted memory. KLM is hewing to practical technologies that exist today, but you see where this could go.
Telepresence for meetings in platforms such as Glue is the first step. You will put on a headset and will have “flown” to a new location. Please fasten your seatbelts, it is time to make our final descent into your new destination, in virtual reality.