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"New airport virtual assistant holograms guide passengers"
Saturday, June 30, 2012
New airport virtual assistant holograms guide passengers
By Charisse Jones
If you're flying out of Boston's Logan International Airport, you may meet
She's got tips for getting through security, a warm personality, and she
speaks two languages. But don't ask her any questions.
Carla is a video-projected "virtual assistant" who helps passengers at the
main security checkpoint in Logan's international terminal know what to take
off and toss out before being screened.
"She doesn't replace any staff," says Ed Freni, director of aviation for the
Massachusetts Port Authority, or Massport. "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."
Boston isn't the only airport to turn to virtual help. Washington Dulles has
"Paige," a hologram that made its debut last month to greet and guide
arriving international passengers in a summer-long pilot project. New York's
three major airports will get their own avatars in July. In a six-month
trial, the holograms can direct passengers to baggage claims and taxis.
At a time passengers can get boarding passes on mobile devices and learn of
delays via e-mail, airport officials say a virtual guide makes sense.
"She's another step toward that high-tech experience," Freni says of Carla.
"That's why I think it's really catching on."
While Carla isn't technically a hologram, her eyes will follow those of the
onlooking passenger, Freni says. She opens her hands when describing what's
to be put in a separate tray at security, and cellphones and coins magically
appear. Carla speaks English and Spanish, and will eventually speak a third
If Carla is well-received, she may take on other tasks or be joined by more
video-projected reps who could, for instance, guide travelers to airport
shops and restaurants, Freni says. Right now, though, there's no plan to put
virtual help such as Carla to work at airport security checkpoints across
"We think it's an interesting concept," says David Castelveter, a spokesman
for the Transportation Security Administration. "However we haven't begun
looking at the possibility of using it."
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