Airplane seat concepts so absurd, pray now that they never get made

Rebel Aero Seat
The Internet had a freak-out recently over something that doesn’t exist – and, hopefully, never will. Zodiac Aerospace, an airline seat manufacturer, patented a design that squeezes more coach seats onto a plane by turning the middle seat backward, facing the rear of the plane. Imagine flying on a six-hour flight, while trying to avoid eye contact with your seatmates.

As we’ve discussed before, airlines and seat manufacturers are constantly looking for new ways to add seats (the newest are slimmer in design, with less padding). Some are ingenious, while others, like the backward seat, were born out of sadistic minds, intent on adding further punishment to a much-maligned experience called air travel. It makes the non-recline seats of Spirit and Allegiant look tame.

But, as with all tech, patents are simply ideas, and most will never make it off the drawing board. But as the industry continues to look for creative ways to generate more profit (pushed in part by Wall Street), let’s hope they never revisit these concepts.

Zodiac Aerospace HD31

It’s being called “atrocious,” “nightmarish,” and something that will “haunt you forever,” but Zodiac Aerospace says its HD31 actually creates more space for passengers while increasing the number of passengers (as many as 30), by turning the middle around, using a hexagonal pattern. Because you aren’t rubbing against your neighbors’ shoulders, the seats feel wider (up to 24 inches, which Zodiac describes as “high density in a business class width”) and you have more space to spread out. The seats also fold up to allow for easy access.

The images, however, aren’t as appealing as what’s described. The seats look like plastic shells with very little cushioning, and the fold-down concept reminds of us a public bus.

Much of the criticism from the press has to do with having to face your seatmates (heaven forbid we try to make friends on a flight), but Zodiac VP Pierre-Antony Vastra tells The Australian newspaper, “It’s a different way of travelling, with people facing each other. We can have nice conversations.”

If you think finding the best coach seat is hard enough, it could be worse. But Zodiac says the patent is just an “exploratory concept,” and it’s really designed for high-density, short-haul flights. Economy passengers already have enough to deal with, but could they accept such a concept if it meant cheaper short flights? And, is it that bad, when you consider passengers on trains already face one another?

Airbus “Bicycle Seat”

Airbus Bike Seat

We’re surprised there was so much hoopla over Zodiac’s concept when there are absurd patents like this. More bus-stop bench seating than economy class (The Washington Post called it a “medieval torture device”), Airbus’ “seating device comprising a forward-foldable backrest,” described in the patent, looks painfully uncomfortable. There are no cushions or seatbacks; instead, the “stand up” seats resemble bicycle saddles with a small back to lean against. Even the figure in the diagrams looks distressed.

If you think an idea like this can’t be possible, think again: Budget airlines like Ryanair of Ireland have explored ways of maximizing cabin space, and, as long as it meets safety regulations, no idea is off-limits (and perhaps why it has been so successful, business wise). As bad as the seat looks, as The Economist puts it, “at least you get a seat.”

 Aviointeriors SkyRider

Aviointeriors SkyRider

In 2010, Italian seat-maker, Aviointeriors, came up with the SkyRider, a vertical “stand up” seat that is suppose to simulate riding a horse. You can throw out those jokes about coach being “cattle class,” because you’ll really feel like an animal with this concept. Unlike the Airbus concept above, there appears to be more cushioning in the seatback. Ryanair also looked into a stand-up seat concept, but neither of these concepts got very far.

Until now: A Chinese budget airline, Spring Airlines, is reportedly lobbying the Chinese government for permission to use vertical seats in its planes. Chinese airlines are seeing huge demand for air travel, and Spring is looking for ways to squeeze more fliers in while keeping fares low. So, maybe the SkyRider could resurface as an actual product – we sure hope not.

Rebel Aero

Rebel Aero

The Rebel Aero is a new concept unveiled this year at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Germany. The seat is a hybrid of a traditional seat and a standing seat. It has a fold-down booster seat that can be repositioned two ways: seating and stand-up. The idea allows airlines to push the seats closer together. For example, a seated passenger can push the seat up to stand, allowing fellow passengers to get in or out. It also gives taller passengers the illusion of more legroom. Rebel Aero calls this “maximizing the passenger envelope.” It’s not as bad as some of the aforementioned concepts, but it doesn’t look comfortable either. The U.K.-based company says it’s taking orders – perhaps Spring Airlines or Ryanair could be its first customer.

Airbus Budget Economy

Airbus Economy Class

Compared to most of the aforementioned concepts, Airbus’ Budget Economy is easier to swallow – barely. Designed for its double-decker A380 planes, this seating design adds an additional seat by moving up the window seats and making armrests and aisles smaller (the standard number of economy seats on a A380 is 10 per row; this concept makes it 11). While it doesn’t seem as bad as a standing bicycle seat, it’s not receiving much fanfare from critics, especially when you realize the A380 flies on very-long-distance routes.

Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Business

Cathay Pacific messes up first-class ticket prices — again

A couple of weeks ago, an error on Cathay Pacific's website resulted in first-class seats selling for a tenth of the price. On Sunday, January 13, the airline made the error again. The good news is that it'll honor the bookings.
Cars

Self-driving, electric, and connected, the cars of CES 2019 hint at the future

Car companies remained surprisingly quiet during CES 2018. But they spoke up in 2019. From electric hatchbacks you can buy in 2019 to super-futuristic mood-detecting technology, here are the major announcements we covered during the event.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.
Emerging Tech

Forget fireworks. Japan will soon have artificial meteor showers on tap

Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences is preparing to launch its first artificial meteor shower over Japan, serving as a showcase of its prowess in the space entertainment sector.