For more than a decade, everyone from NASA to inventors with PhDs after their names has been trying to perfect Virtual Reality, or “VR.” VR allows you to slip a device over your head and enter another world. You have a 3-D, 360-degree view of whatever is being presented to you. Gamers have craved this for years.
But early devices caused nausea because when a user turned his head or manipulated a joystick, what he was seeing didn’t adjust in his view at exactly the same time, leading to motion sickness. Lots of people threw up trying new VR devices.
But as a June cover story in WIRED by Peter Rubin detailed, a 19-year –old, Southern California tinkerer working in his garage figured out how to make a bug-less VR. And a few months ago, at age 21, that inventor with the great name of Palmer Lucky sold his company to Facebook for more than $2 billion. And by this time next year, we may all be able to buy his Oculus Rift for about $300.
Here’s a link to Rubin’s cover story in WIRED. Tomorrow: What this means for travel.
Now that it’s been a few weeks since the Malaysia Airlines tragedy over Ukraine, it’s worth taking a longer view. And one of the most oft-asked questions following the downing of the plane was: “What was it doing flying over that region in the first place?”
I’m reminded of a blog posting of Patrick Smith, a frequent guest on my weekend radio show and a commercial pilot who flies internationally. He’s also the author of the very good blog called AskThePilot.
Shortly after the disaster, Patrick wrote, ““Dozens of airline flights pass each day over Baghdad. I have personally piloted flights over Eastern Ukraine, close to where the Malaysia Airlines 777 met its fate.
“Over certain countries — Afghanistan, for instance — commercial overflights might be prohibited outright. Compliance with these restrictions is important, but they are not difficult to follow. Crews don’t simply wander unknowingly into dangerous airspace. On the ground, air traffic controllers are fully aware of who will be passing over, and when.”
Patrick notes the airspace over Eastern Ukraine and was being used routinely by European and Asian airlines when the Malaysian jet was brought down. And US airlines had not been warned away from flying.
“What a double-dose of agonizing luck,” Smith wrote, “for Malaysia Airlines. One of the world’s most highly regarded carriers has lost two Boeing 777s in less than a year’s span, with neither accident likely being its fault.”
Spirit is the bad boy of US airlines. The discount airline is known for its provocative advertising—a photo of a hot model in a bikini with sun tan lotion glistening on her body is accompanied by the headline, “Check Out the Oil On Our Beaches.” When Colorado legalized the use of recreational marijuana, Spirit’s ads read, “The No Smoking Sign Is Off.”
But a recent campaign may top them all.
Spirit is known for its tight seating and its cheap fares but expensive extras. Now, Spirit is offering 8,000 miles on its airline to anyone willing to post a Twitter message saying what you hate about another airline.
And what can you do with 8,000 Spirit miles?
Well, 800 of them will get you a free subscription to ESPN The Magazine. Or 2,000 miles buys you a year’s subscription to Time. 4,800 miles for a year’s subscription to The Economist. Heck, for only 12,500 miles, you can get an off-peak, coast-to-coast ticket.
This has to be the first marketing campaign in which one company pays you to trash their competition publically. And given some passengers’ feelings about some airlines, it shouldn’t be too hard to goad folks into playing this game.
Here’s the link.
It took three years, but finally a mom won an admission from the Transportation Security Administration that breast milk does NOT have to pass through an X-ray machine at an airport’s security screening post.
What I don’t understand is why any TSA agent, when reminded of TSA rules, can’t just admit a mistake. When a TSA agent at Phoenix’s airport insisted Stacey Armato had to put her bottled breast milk through an X-ray scanner, she reminded the agent that the TSA’s own rules allowed an exception. But the agent gave her a hard time and put her in a glass holding cage for 45 minutes that she said made her feel like a caged animal.
Armato said she eats organic, drinks a lot of water, and tries to stay in shape, so she really, really didn’t want her baby’s milk to be irradiated. It took a lawsuit and three years for the TSA to agree to pay her $75,000 and to re-train screeners to remind them of the exception. That money will go to lawyers’ fees and to a non-profit that supports breast-feeding moms.
But was this all really necessary?
The woman leaving her post as chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board says that one of her greatest disappointments of her tenure is that child safety seats still aren’t required on airplanes for young children.
When she joined the NTSB ten years ago, Deborah Hersman she found it “almost unbelievable” that children under two weren’t required to sit in child safety seats. She said kids are as vulnerable in the case of an airplane crash are they in a car crash. At least.
The NTSB has urged the FAA to develop regulations regarding child safety seats, but the FAA is not required to follow the NTSB’s suggestions. Today the FAA recommends but doesn’t require that a child less than 20 pounds use a rear-facing child restraint system. A forward-facing seat would be used for children weighing between 20 and 40 pounds.
Passengers are permitted to hold children up to two years old in their laps, but that’s a hopeless situation in the event of a hard landing of an airplane. It’s time for the FAA to step up to the plate and require car seats for young kids in planes.