APEX Insight: Tech trends like virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and wearables are already affecting the airline passenger experience. APEX Media will be at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show to investigate how the latest advancements will help shape the future of PaxEx.

APEX Media will be on-site at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week, where more than 4,000 exhibitors will set up shop across 2.6 million square feet of tradeshow space. In anticipation of the influx of tech news heading your way, we’ve rounded up some of the major trends that are sure to upend the airline passenger experience industry.

Smartphones, Smart Homes, Smart Cities and Beyond

Last year, smart home technology dominated the show, but with the introduction of a dedicated exhibit area (“Marketplace” in CES parlance) for smart cities, and a schedule of related conference programing, it may soon be overthrown. United States Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao will headline the Smart Cities conference, discussing how new technologies will change the way the American population travels. Where will airports fit in? A major announcement from Paris Région Entreprises, in conjunction with French airport operator Groupe ADP, may hold the answer.

Unreal Entertainment and Services

APEX member SkyLights is pioneering in-flight virtual reality (VR). Air France, Joon, Corsair and Jetfly will be among the first airlines to offer SkyLights’ second-generation immersive AlloSky headset, which was unveiled during APEX EXPO in September. Travelers may soon be using augmented reality (AR) to book flights with these airlines. AR travel shopping solution ARvis, which displays life-sized 3-D seat maps to compare legroom and features an AR representation of the correct luggage size, took home the first place corporate prize at IATA’s Silicon Valley Hackathon in August. Emirates has already incorporated AR into the in-flight experience with a stuffed animal accompanied by a gift card that shows a 3-D animation when scanned with a device, providing airlines with a way of entertaining children without taking up weight or space in the cabin.

With the sales of AR and VR headsets set to increase by 25% this year, compared to last year, according to CES organizer Consumer Technology Association, the pace of integration of virtual, augmented and mixed reality in PaxEx is sure to pick up.

Think Differently

This year’s all-new AI Marketplace, focusing on big data analytics, speech recognition and predictive technology, and a keynote from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich are signs that AI is permeating across many industries ­– aviation is no exception. In September, Finnair joined the 14% of airlines, including Lufthansa, KLM and Icelandair, that use AI-powered chatbots, when it launched Finn on Facebook Messenger in September 2017. According to SITA’s 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights, 68% of airlines will use AI-powered chatbots by 2020. Other areas where AI will likely impact the airline passenger experience are real-time predictive pricing, overbooking prevention and robotics.

What to Wear

“Wearables” encompasses everything from GPS smartwatches to AR eye glasses, but we’ll be on the lookout for devices that will help passengers keep well on board and equip cabin crew with the tools needed to ensure their comfort. Think goggles that display holographic passenger details or passenger hydration sensors. Real-time translation earbuds, from the likes of bigwigs like Google and upstarts like Travis, may be one more way for airlines to ease passenger jitters in flight.

If you want to know more about recent developments in the startup tech space, check out the first installment of the APEX Investigates documentary series, featuring coverage from Slush in Helsinki.