Never heard of Thales? Consider yourself schooled. Thales has been kicking the tires in the in-flight entertainment market for over a decade now, but there's no question that its latest innovation is the one that could take it the next level. Shown recently in Long Beach, the Touch Passenger Media Unit (TouchPMU) is one of the most intriguing uses of Android yet. The idea here is to use the 3.8-inch handset / controller in order to both view content and control what's happening on one's headrest television. The control itself is powered by an ARM Cortex processor and sports a capacitive touchpanel (800 x 480 resolution), support for Flash and 3D graphics. There's no telling when this stuff will actually be available on commercial flights (or when legacy airlines will ditch their World War II-era fleet), but it's safe to say that we're eager and ready for the future. Oh, and just in case anyone at Thales felt like resting on their laurels, it seems that Panasonic also has an Android-based IFEC system that it's showcasing, and a video of that just so happens to be waiting after the break.


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Thales Introduces an Evolutionary Touch Passenger Media Unit built on Android® OS

14 September 2010

WAEA Long Beach, CA, September 14, 2010 – Thales, a leader in In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) and connectivity systems, unveils a new product called the Touch Passenger Media Unit (TouchPMU). Designed to be both a stand-alone media access device and a controller for the seat display, the TouchPMU is a menu driven, touch screen unit that carves out a new product category that will transform the passenger experience adding multi-task capability and more functionality.

Built on the Android® operating system, the TouchPMU will be able to host endless applications. Its mature, open source, web-based platform make it easy to integrate functionality and leverage existing gaming and application resources. As a stand-alone media access device, the TouchPMU locally stores a wide range of applications independent of the new TopSeries system. This allows passengers to engage in activities such as watch moving map flight information, order food and beverages, play games, take a survey, shop and even chat onboard while at the same time engage with the seatback menu options. As a controller for the seatback display, the unit enables the passenger to browse all system functions through an intuitive touch screen interface.

Physically, the TouchPMU is a hand-held 3.8 inch LCD display unit with resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. It incorporates leading edge ARM Cortex Processor technology for PC performance at cell phone power levels, and uses capacitive touch technology, which is used in most mobile phones and many PCs today for smooth to the touch navigation. Multi-touch capabilities include two finger pinch for expanding and reducing picture or menu sizes, finger swipe for turning menu pages and two finger rotation to adjust viewing orientation. The unit provides 3D graphics acceleration as well as an accelerometer for 3D graphic rotation and support for local games and applications. In the future, the product will include an Adobe Flash player for playback of videos typically found on the web.

"The TouchPMU is a breakthrough for Thales and for the industry. It is a very powerful device that will provide airlines tremendous flexibility on what they offer their passengers and how they can engage with them. I am very excited about how this product and the integration of Android® will continue to evolve and build more innovative applications," said Alan Pellegrini, Managing Director for the Thales In-Flight Entertainment business.

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Thales, Panasonic demo Android-based in-flight entertainment systems (video)