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A seat for those who want privacy, an experience for those who want friends: Delta designs for two types of travelers

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A TED attendee finds their social soulmate in the Delta Connectivity Space. Photo: Bret Hartman

A TED attendee finds her social soulmate in the Delta Connectivity Space. Photo: Bret Hartman

There are two kinds of people who fly: those who want to talk to the person sitting next to them and those who want a quiet ride. Luckily, Delta has created a sensory experience for both kinds of travelers in their Connectivity Space, outside the theater at TED2014.

For the connectors, we’ll start with a tour through the Social Soul exhibit. You give the guy at the door your Twitter handle and step into the many-mirrored room. As the lights dim, your handle appears on the ceiling above you. Suddenly, the room bursts with images and words pulled directly from your account, reflected and surrounding you from all angles, as a low voice intones some of the words. Colors swirling, your Twitter world comes alive around you, and the experience feels a lot like being dropped into the center of your own brain. There’s a bridge, and the lights dim again, and when the images reappear, they’re no longer yours. Your Social Soulmate is now being revealed to you: the person whose Twitter content Delta believes is the best match. The show culminates with the appearance of your Social Soulmate’s handle above you on the ceiling, and as you step out of the dark room, you feel a particular sense of kinship to this stranger you realize you’re seconds away from Tweeting.

The space is an abstraction of an idea Delta believes in: that they’re about helping people connect and start a conversation. It’s one of the reasons they were the first airline to allow electronic devices in the air. You can listen in on one of these conversations between two TED attendees en route to Vancouver traveling in Delta’s new Innovation Class. Eric Migicovsky, CEO of Pebble Technology, was seated next to TED Fellow James Patten (visit his amazing workspace) for a conversation about technology and mentorship.

Now, for a radically different experience, take a few steps over to Delta’s Privaseat prototype and have a seat in the neat, self-contained chair. It feels a little more like a futuristic pod bed than an airline seat. Your body immediately relaxes as you gaze into the blue screen just ahead. It displays three lines: Privaseat is listening, generating a noise filter, and creating volume control. The white noise filter coddles that other kind of traveler: the one who simply wants to relax and get where they are going, without bags under their eyes.

And another attendee test drives the PrivaSeat. Photo: Bret Hartman

An attendee test-drives the Privaseat. Photo: Bret Hartman