8 clever airplane concepts we hope to see on a future flight

B/E Aerospace Solar Eclipse
B/E Aerospace Solar Eclipse
When you’re designing for a confined space like an airplane cabin, you need to get a little creative. Space is limited, so it becomes a challenge to meet an airliner’s requirements (adding seats, creating more room in overhead compartments, lighter materials, etc.) while keeping in mind the safety and comfort of passengers.

But industrial designers are a clever bunch, always finding new solutions to seemingly impossible challenges. And many of the best are recognized each year at the Crystal Cabin Awards, held at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany. While many concepts will never make it off the drawing board, here are some of the latest ideas we would love to see on a future flight.

Elisava Trolley

Elisava Trolley

Spotted by Skift.com, this service cart concept from the Barcelona School of Design and Engineering’s Elisava Center falls into the “why didn’t they think of this sooner?” category. Because it’s thinner, it allows passengers to slip by (they always love to hit the lavatories when the drink carts are out). Smartly designed drawers allow for easy access, while rounded corners mean less painful bumps to the elbows.

Smarttray

Smarttray

The SmartTray is a typical tray table with a place to hold your tablet or smartphone. Seems simple, but the judges at the 2015 Crystal Cabin Awards thought it was brilliant enough to make it a finalist. It frees your hands and arms from having to prop up your device, yet it doesn’t take up any room on the tray table.

B/E Aerospace Solar Eclipse

B/E Aerospace Solar Eclipse

We’re surprised this ingenious concept hasn’t been put into production sooner. The Solar Eclipse from B/E Aerospace is a window shade with built-in USB ports, and, as you probably guessed, charges your portable devices using sun power. With so many passengers carrying multiple devices, the Solar Eclipse is an affordable way for airlines to provide in-seat power to small devices, without installing standard power outlets.

Boeing Space Bins, Embraer E2

With nearly every domestic airline charging a fee to check a bag, more passengers are carrying them on instead. When a plane is full, however, those overhead compartments become extremely scarce and valuable.

Boeing has figured out a way to increase capacity with the Space Bins. Each compartment holds six standard sized bags – two more than previous designs. When opened, they are lower in height, making it easier to lift bags into them. Boeing says the Space Bins will add 50-percent more luggage space, while decreasing the amount of time it takes for passengers to look for open space – crucial if you want your plane to push back on time. Expect to see them in the upcoming 737 MAX.

In the regional jet market, Brazilian manufacturer Embraer has created the E2 cabin concept for its next generation of jets. Regional jets typically have small cabin interiors, but the E2 cabin looks spacious. Embraer says overhead bins are 40-percent larger, which will please frequent fliers who travel on these small jets often. For premium passengers, the E2 cabin uses a staggered seat concept to create the sense of personal space.

Lufthansa Technik Aerokid

Lufthansa Technik Aerokid

For travelers with young kids, having to carry a child seat adds to the burden. The Aerokid is a seat concept that has an integrated child seat for both infants and small kids. Developed by Lufthansa Technik, the seat can convert into positions to accommodate very young travelers, while keeping them safe. It eliminates the need for parents to bring cumbersome child seats onboard, and helps speed up the boarding process.

Escape

Enable

Sometimes, the hassles of flying make you want to escape from it all, and that’s sort of the idea. Designed by Alexandra Moceri, a product design student at the College for Creative Studies in Michigan who interned with B/E Aerospace, the Escape is a visor that doubles as an in-flight entertainment display. To activate the headgear, a user simply pulls the visor in front of their eyes and uses touchpads on the armrests as controls. A finalist for this year’s Crystal Cabin Awards, check out Moceri’s other ideas at the Behance portfolio.

Enable

Another university concept, the Enable uses the surface of a tray table as an interactive display. Developed by students at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Enable provides customers with customized info, and functions as an in-flight entertainment display. Place a physical book on it and it will tell you what it’s about, or it’ll pull up music options when you put down headphones. Oh, and it doubles as a tray for your food. Of course, it’s a bit Hollywood in concept, but not entirely impossible in the future.

Thales Eye Tracking and Hand Gesture Control

A Crystal Cabin Award winner in 2013, Thales’ Eye Tracking and Hand Gesture Control uses those body parts to navigate a seat-back display, removing the need to use actual remote controls. The system is designed for premium cabin passengers that are treated to larger screens, but usually sit far from it (economy passengers sit close enough they can tap on a touchscreen). Thales says the system makes it more user-friendly and natural to control.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

New brainwave reader tells teachers if students are concentrating

Massachusetts-based startup BrainCo has developed brainwave-reading headbands which can reportedly help reveal if students are concentrating in class. Here's how they're being used.
Emerging Tech

Fears about kids’ screen use may have been overblown, Oxford researchers find

Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health. But is this true? A recent study from the University of Oxford takes a closer look.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world will take your breath away

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Google plots radar-sensing tech that could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.
Emerging Tech

Scientists successfully grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish

Researchers have managed to grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish for the first time, and even to successfully implant them into live mice. The results could be a game-changer for diabetes.
Emerging Tech

Tiny animals discovered in Antarctic lake deep beneath the ice

Scientists have made a surprising discovery in Antarctica: the carcasses of tiny animals including crustaceans and a tardigrade were found in a lake that sits deep beneath over half a mile of Antarctic ice.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.