Holiday travel? Robots will make it easier

December 22, 2015
John Quinn

Over the last year we’ve noticed that airports and commuter terminals have become real world testing grounds for assistive robots and AI systems.

It makes sense. Environments like airports, while chaotic, are reasonably well-structured. The more defined and unchanging a landscape, the easier it is for an autonomous machine to navigate.

And because travelers typically have just a few predictable objectives in mind–make a flight, find baggage claim, sprint to the bathroom–the range of knowledge an AI system needs in order to be helpful is quite small.

This month, robotics company Aldebaran announced that Pepper, an interactive humanoid developed to work in SoftBank’s stores in Asia, will attempt to improve the traveling experience of railway passengers in three stations in France.

Pepper will have a number of tasks, including welcoming guests or greeting people in transit through the station. It will provide pertinent information, from train timetables to info on the station and its surrounding environment.

Using the customer service savvy picked up at SoftBank stores, Pepper will also collect customer satisfaction surveys before and after passengers’ journeys and during their stay at the station. And if the passengers get bored, Pepper will entertain them with a short quiz about major tourist attractions near each station.

In late November, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced it would deploy a robot named Spencer at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Spencer is the result of more than two years of collaboration between KLM, SME Bluebotics, and various universities, and the project was supported by the European Commission.

To read the rest of this article, published in ZDNet, please click here.