Hainan Airlines hands out Rokid AR glasses for in-flight entertainment

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A passenger tries out a pair of Rokid AR glasses on a Hainan Airlines flight in China.

Rokid

BEIJING — Hainan Airlines this week started letting passengers on some routes use Rokid’s augmented reality glasses for free for in-flight entertainment, the tech startup announced Thursday.

Chinese start-up Rokid claimed it’s the first time AR glasses — which allow computer-generated images to be superimposed on the real world — have been used at scale on flights. Passengers can watch 3D movies, read e-books and play simple games using the glasses, instead of doing so on a built-in monitor.

Apple’s Vision Pro virtual reality headset, which isn’t available in China yet, comes with a motion-stabilizing “travel mode” for use on airplanes. The device allows wearers to see the real world using what the company calls “spatial computing” technology.

Rokid’s deal with Hainan Airlines is more of a marketing effort to boost consumers’ awareness of AR glasses, rather than a large commercial deal, the startup’s founder and CEO Misa Zhu told CNBC in a phone interview Wednesday.

He claimed Rokid was in talks “with lots of airlines” for similar partnerships, including at least one major international operator. Zhu said he wasn’t authorized to disclose details, but expects more announcements in the next few months.

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Hainan Airlines is one of the major flight operators in China, and offers international routes as well. The company released a short video to promote its collaboration with Rokid.

Zhu said the airline bought hundreds of Rokid AR glasses for passengers to use for free on more than 20 flights. Each pair retails for just over 3,000 yuan ($420) and weighs 75 grams.

For comparison, Apple’s Vision Pro costs about $3,500 and weighs 600 grams to 650 grams.

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Hainan Airlines first tested Rokid’s AR glasses on a commercial flight from Shenzhen to Xi’an on Wednesday, and is rolling out the devices on many other flights starting Thursday, Rokid said.

The initial trial period is set for a month, coinciding with the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday in China that officially kicks off on Saturday, during which hundreds of millions of locals travel domestically.

“Airlines are quite excited because they can offer more services, and it’s very competitive,” Zhu said in Mandarin, translated by CNBC.

He said Rokid is in talks to incorporate AR glasses into other means of transit, such as high speed trains.



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