The Sensory Experience: Touch

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APEX Insight: A lot of science goes into what we hear, see, touch, smell and taste in the airplane cabin. In this multipart feature, we take at look at recent developments targeted at each of the five senses.

According to a 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, sitting for too long can kill you, or at least lead to an early death. While a sedentary 18 hours at 35,000 feet isn’t going to send you to your grave, it might leave you feeling stiff. Expected to take flight in 2020, Recaro’s massaging chair aims to help with that.

“Our idea is to prevent backaches,” says Jochen Lohrmann, head of Innovation and Advanced Development at the German firm. The massage is delivered via a set of air bladders that can be inflated and deflated, activating the muscles in the back. The movement also helps hydrate the vertebral discs, he explains. 

An optional feature on its CL6710 business-class seat, the massage function is part of Recaro’s well-being package, which also includes individually controlled lighting and a heating system to keep you nice and toasty. “Health is a huge trend in different industries,” Lohrmann says. “We investigated this topic, and our research found it is necessary to address several of the human senses to really get a relaxing effect.”

While Recaro looked toward the automotive industry for inspiration, the use cases for passengers in the air are slightly different from those sitting behind the dashboard. “Passengers on an aircraft seat are in different body postures: They eat, they sleep, they watch movies … The functionality is optimized for this.” 

Right now, Recaro is focusing on the business-class seat because it’s got the necessary living space needed to implement the pneumatic massage system, which is expected to add about 1.4 kilograms per seat. Lest the economy-class passenger be forgotten, Recaro is also planning to bring a health innovation to this segment by the end of the year: a hygienic coating on the most-touched parts of its CL3710 long-haul economy offering. 

Depending on the component – dress cover, armrests or tray table, for example – a different coating is used, Lohrmann says. The antibacterial aspect is “very effective,” he adds, referring to the results of a study conducted together with the Hohenstein Institute. 

We can’t avoid touching different parts of our environment on an airplane, but if we can avoid the sniffles that seem to follow flight, the only ones not benefiting are the germs. 

“The Sensory Experience” was originally published in the 8.4 August/September issue of APEX Experience magazine.