Reversible seats, oversize loos: best new ideas in plane cabins

In-flight entertainment controlled by eye movements, live TV in the air, bigger toilets to cater for overweight passengers and reversible seats so friends can sit face-to-face are all innovations we could soon be flying high with.

For this year's Crystal Cabin Awards – an annual competition that recognises excellence in aviation interior innovation – these and 17 other finalists' submissions were scrutinised by a judging panel of 25 industry experts, with the seven winners announced overnight at a formal dinner at the Hamburg aviation trade fair.

An "eye-tracking and gesture control" system from French company Thales, which allows passengers to change channels, make selections or adjust the volume on their entertainment systems by simply staring at icons on the screen and using hand motions, won the Passenger Comfort Systems trophy.

By designing the first aircraft toilet cubicle to cater for the comfort of obese passengers, two university students from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences won the University award for their BigLavC design. The diagonal position of the toilet means more comfort and space for overweight passengers and wheelchair users, and the loos also help airlines make money by incorporating an infotainment display targeting short commercials at the captive audience.

This idea is in contrast to the design put forward by B/E Aerospace last week, which actually makes the toilets smaller and is likely to be installed on Delta Air Lines Boeing 737s.

A lightweight, self-cleaning table integrated into the armrest by Acro Aircraft seating from England made it to the finals, as did Paperclip Hong Kong's "Checkerboard" seat design. It can easily be converted between economy and business class configurations, with the latter having extra width and an additional eight inches of legroom.

For those tired of lonely, long-haul flights, Zodiac Seats from the USA and Mexico offered the "Reversible Seat", which flips over so people can face each other and connect their fold-out trays to form a larger table.

Zodiac also submitted an overhead locker design which allow passengers to store their cabin baggage trolleys in an upright position, while a Dutch university project put forward a folding tray table cabinet design with a hinged lid accessing a storage compartment for passengers phones and wallets, complete with USB charging and headphone port.

As part of German company TU Dresden's "Concept Cabin" of the future, the inside walls of the plane's cabin will be lined with flexible LED screens that can be projected with 3D augmented reality displays of the terrain below and the environment passengers are flying through, to be overlaid by digital information about the region, of the mountains or the ocean below.

While most of the concepts are still just ideas on paper, others are already in the marketplace such as Row 44's Inflight Wi-Fi Live Television, which lets passengers on some American flights watch live TV channels on their own smartphones, tablets, laptops and other WiFi devices while they fly.

Professor Dr Peter Vink or Delft University of Technology, chairman of the award judging panel said the designs were "very good examples of how to improve various aspects of the cabin interior, for example by increasing comfort levels and reducing weight".