Prepare for second screen takeoff: how Massive Interactive redefines in-flight entertainment

By Natan Edelsburg 

Chances are, if you’ve enjoyed you in-flight experience of late it had something to do with Massive Interactive. The company provides the in-flight entertainment systems for Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, and Qantas. According to chief creative officer Derek Ellis, “social integration through the seatback solution is possible, however passengers often prefer to engage in such activity on their own devices.” Ellis sees real opportunity, though, with the second screens that are part of the handsets, which allow texting and checking flight info. 

We spoke with Ellis and asked him about why airlines continue to invest in hardware rather than WiFi, and whether in-flight systems feature second screen capabilities.

Lost Remote: Massive Interactive has been creating some pretty cool offerings for the entertainment marketplace. Where does this experience come from?
Derek Ellis: Massive has been always been a company that’s worked at the forefront of technology to deliver new and innovative experiences. We have a long history of using technology to entertain, inform and simplify complex daily tasks and processes. For us, the airline industry embodies several areas we’re particularly skilled in: designing for constrained and emerging technical environments along with designing customer-facing experiences that offer a high level of branded engagement.

LR: When it comes to in-flight entertainment, airlines can either invest in hardware and content licensing, or they could improve WiFi Why do they continue to go the hardware route?
Ellis: Either option involves investment in hardware as streaming content from anywhere other than onboard servers is still a long time away. In some countries, regulations restrict the use of mobile technology, so service continuity isn’t guaranteed. The key for airlines is to embrace that passengers’ own devices and content and designing an onboard experiences that complements rather than competes is essential.

LR: Where is in-flight technology heading?
Ellis: Many advances and improvements have occurred behind the scenes. However, those with which passengers are familiar include improved connectivity, screen size/quality and responsiveness as well as the introduction of touch screens that operate similarly to smartphones and tablets. The launch of second screens, typically as part of a handset, which allow multitasking while consuming content has also emerged to great fanfare.

LR: How does the hardware you provide differ across Virgin, Emirates, and other airlines?
Ellis: Each solution Massive has provided the airline industry has been unique to that brand and its customers. The first step in any project is thorough analysis of the client’s needs, brand and passengers. Our solutions are conceptualized specifically to address these needs. Our main goal is to offer outstanding return on investment through the introduction of a product that boasts longevity, scalability and brand extension while ultimately meeting the needs of the passenger.

LR: What are some social integration features Massive’s in-flight systems provides? Is it possible to use social platforms while watching TV on a plane?
Ellis: Most new systems installed on aircrafts include a second screen as part of the handset, which allows for greater functionality beyond controlling the seatback screen. Passengers can use it to multitask in ways that include messaging, chatting and checking flight info all while watching a movie or television show. Social integration through the seatback solution is possible, however passengers often prefer to engage in such activity on their own devices.

LR: Are systems designed with the international market in mind? How uniform is the user experience and how much thought is put into this when designing platforms?
Ellis: Each system needs to work seamlessly with all passengers regardless of nationality, language or culture. The user experience and underlying design system, if designed correctly, accommodates slight differences based on language and other factors. This provides a universal solution, but one that can skew or surface content and features that is relevant to passengers’ language and cultural preference.