Over the last few months there have been digital assistants popping up at a few of America’s larger airports. These virtual assistants are available to help passengers with common travel needs and questions. They’re not interactive, but they do provide information on subjects such as luggage restrictions, security regulations, and boarding details.
Currently installed at Newark Liberty, JFK, LaGuardia, Logan, and Dulles International in the U.S. – as well as a few European airports – these life-sized projections are the next step in the evolution of airport to traveler information exchange. Already, we can have flight information emailed or texted to us, our boarding passes can be on our smartphones, and many airports have apps (ours on iOS & Android) which will keep passengers up to date with flight information, terminal maps, and other airport specific information. These assistants are what some call a logical step toward a more high-tech experience.
The hologram assistants are created using rear-projection technology, which sends a high resolution image onto a flat sheet of acrylic, cast in the shape of a woman. The airport virtual assistant can be placed in key points throughout the facility for maximum effectiveness, depending on the type of information they’re sharing.
The job these virtual assistants perform has, until now, been done by signs posted on walls and poles. Unfortunately, these can easily go unnoticed by hurried travelers. The hope, and initial reaction, is that the uniqueness of these holograms will catch the attention of passengers and families, making everyone better prepared to navigate airport security and regulations.
Ed Freni, of the Massachusetts Port Authority says “She [the assistant] doesn’t replace any staff. … We just want to have a more effective way to communicate with our customers. … She’s an attention-grabber and is much more effective than some of the signs and some of the videos we have.”
Currently, the digital assistants are only in use by the airports themselves, in order to help disseminate pre-recorded information. On the horizon, however, they could be used by the Transportation Safety Administration. “We think it’s an interesting concept,” says David Castelveter, a spokesman for the TSA. “However we haven’t begun looking at the possibility of using it.”
Have you been through one of the airports with these pseudo holographic assistants? If so, what are your thoughts and experiences with them? We’d like to know what you think of them and if you think they’re the future of information sharing in airports.