I have a prediction for you.
Nothing very momentous.
In around five years you are going to be sitting on a long haul flight. At some point en route you'll turn to your companion and say something like "That's the third or fourth person I've seen stick their hand up and wave it. Why don't they use their button to attract the cabin attendents? ... Who, I notice, are ignoring them anyway!"
"Re-cogs" Your companion will say, knowingly.
Here are some of the breadcrumbs that led me to that scenario.
- Two or three years ago I spent a day in a social media brain-storming session called vJam run by Virgin Atlantic Airways. There were around 50 Virgin frequent flyers, staff, social media apps designers & programmers and other assorted bods including fellow travel journo, Jeremy Head (www.travelblather.com, @jeremyhead) and myself... all thinking about ways Virgin Atlantic might use social media in the future. So we know they've been thinking about the ways social media might be incorporated into the flying experience both on the ground and in flight.
- And (although, as Malcolm Ginsberg reports in today's issue of AERBT Virgin Atlantic's new entertainment system doesn't look quite so advanced) we know that Virgin America and V Australia are already (since 2009) using their RED In-Flight Entertainment (IFA) system which, in addition to an on demand library of films, TV programmes and music, also offers seat-to-seat chat and video games.
Furthermore other IFA manufacturers, such as Thales Aerospace, are also working on similar Linux-based systems.
- Meanwhile, the 'Not for Wimps' concept gamer seat was unveiled at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg last week and subsequently appeared in lots of travel trade and mainstream newspapers... accompanied mostly by derision from commentators. But, as I pointed out in the comments on Telegraph's coverage, while the seat itself might only be practical in some rich guy's private jet, the interesting bit was the recognition that many of the new generation of flyers... are gamers.
- In January I flew with other BGTW colleagues to Oman and back on Oman Air aircraft equipped with in-flight wi-fi and a broadband(-ish) internet connection. We were able to tweet, use web mail and surf using our smartphones, laptops or PDAs. Of course, being colleagues we were able to gather our twitter conversation between seats in the aircraft and friends on the ground around a common hashtag.
Very soon now passengers are going to be playing more games, and more sophisticated games through their IFAs. While satellite links will become more stable they are never going to be wholly reliable, so I see the emphasis for in-flight gaming and social media focused on local area networks.
In short, it will quickly become common for passengers to be chatting in chatrooms, playing cards or other simple games, and playing mainstream video games like Call of Duty, FIFA 11, HALO, Forza Motorsport, Lego Star Wars, etc.... with other passengers on the same flight.
How will they know who they are?
They'll be saying to each other: "Where are you? Put your hand up."
Hence the "recognition wave".
"The flight attendants ignore them because they know it's a re-cog wave. Anyway, when we want service, we'll order it through the IFA", says your all-knowing companion.
"Smug know-it-all!" you think.