NYC Airports Installing Avatars That Get Chatty Upon Being Approached

They aren’t tall, blue and skilled with flying beasts, but avatars installed at certain airports could provide useful information for travelers soon. If you can’t find an actual warm body to assist you, you’ll be able to just walk up to one of these flat-screen helpers and have it start talking.

The Port of Authority of New York and New Jersey debuted the new customer service idea at area airports, which activate when a customer approaches, reports WNYC.org.

It won’t talk about just anything (“Ugh, my sciatica is really acting up lately,”), but will stick to travel-related info like flight information, shuttle bus and taxi pick-up tips and more. Each one will be life-sized, featuring a flat-screen in the shape of a person.

“I’m so versatile!” says one in a video, somewhat flirtatiously. “I can be used for just about anything! I can say what you want, dress the way you want, and be just about anything you want me to be.”

Your minds, get them out of the gutter.

According to WNYC, Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye showed off one of the talking avatars at a press conference at LaGuardia Airport on Monday, saying the machines are meant to supplement the airport’s 350 living, breathing customer service representatives. The ranks of human reps will swell with 70 new hires soon.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen pixelated people at the airport — last year Manchester Airport in the UK installed two holograms using the likenesses of two willing employees to remind passengers in the security line about which liquids they can and can’t bring onboard.

Avatars to Assist Travelers at Area Airports [WNYC.org]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. spartan says:

    one of the phrases they are programmed to say is “you must be a terrorist if you are flying under your maiden name”

    • That guy. says:

      “Good morning sir. You appear too fat to fly. Please buy a second ticket. Thank you!”

  2. blogger X says:

    Um…yeah…excuse me, I need to use the “facilities”…

  3. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:
  4. DarthCoven says:

    So, I take it the Port Authority has gotten over their budget issues and is now rolling in enough cash that they can lower tolls, right?

  5. Cat says:

    While at the airport, I fell in love with this avatar. I named her “Kathy”, and took her home and had an torrid affair with her. I got caught by Mrs. Cat, who called me an idiot. I introduced Kathy to my kids as their new mom, but after finding that my son, Chris, took her into his room, I angrily ripped her in half. I tearfully buried her in the yard and later begged Mrs. Cat for forgiveness.

    • alana0j says:

      I hope you didn’t take her into the shower…has the potential to short her out.

      And just remind Mrs. Cat that you were thinking of her each time you got it on with Kathy. That will definitely help your case.

    • pamelad says:

      So … Kathy was talking about 3 oz. TSA policies, and the TSA didn’t catch you escorting their life-sized hologrammatical spokeswoman off the premises?

    • Hibyeman says:

      Cat you have a sick mind and i like this part in the post Your minds, get them out of the gutter. and then i read your comment i bet it was made for you

  6. DeeJayQueue says:

    They had these at Dulles as of last week. I wasn’t too impressed actually, because she was just there talking to nobody and they whole kiosk was in the main hallway out of baggage claim.

  7. Cat says:

    While at the airport, I fell in love with this avatar. I named her “Kathy”, and took her home and had an torrid affair with her. I got caught by Mrs. Cat, who called me an idiot. I introduced Kathy to my kids as their new mom, but after finding that my son, Chris, took her into his room, I angrily ripped her in half. I tearfully buried her in the yard and later begged Mrs. Cat for forgiveness.

  8. chiieddy says:

    Donna Noble has left the library…

  9. Stickdude says:

    Do any of them go by the name of “Siri”?

  10. Blueskylaw says:

    A Pan Am 727 flight waiting for start clearance in Munich overheard the following:

    Lufthansa (in German): “Ground, what is our start clearance time?”

    Ground (in English): “If you want an answer you must speak in English.”

    Lufthansa (in English): “I am a German, flying a German airplane, in Germany. Why must I speak English?”

    Unknown voice from another plane (in a beautiful British accent): “Because you lost the bloody war.”

  11. That guy. says:

    Do they speak multiple languages? That’d be pretty useful in an international airport.

    Would the face of the Avatar change depending on what language they are speaking?

  12. Belabras ate my dingo! says:

    I’m Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite airport on Earth!

  13. pitawg says:

    Latex mustache variants on sale starting next week. Get yours now! Place appropriately on screen for the next future passenger.

  14. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    at least they aren’t using them to cut jobs… yet, anyway

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That was my thought. They are fine for generic announcements and to reflect flight changes like the screens do, but there still need to be human customer service people. In a place with that many people passing through each day, there will undoubtedly be situations that call for flexibility or discretion.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        “Flexibility” and “discretion” aren’t useful to consider when your sole concern is making as much money as possible in as short a time as possible.

      • human_shield says:

        Just wait. Someone will link this to one of those voice command phone trees.

      • Plasmafox says:

        These ones could even *make* money by playing the equivalent of a flashy, annoying, loud flash ad in real life between helping customers.

  15. Kuri says:

    If it was another hologram I’d be a bit more impressed.

  16. coffee100 says:

    Good excuse to fire some more Americans. Can’t let those unions get uppity. Someone might open a savings account.

  17. BigDragon says:

    Imagine if my avatar was providing help at the airport! He’d be 20 feet tall, snarl at you when you asked a question he didn’t like, and would randomly steal shiny objects or food you paid too much for! He’d also join you in complaining when a flight gets delayed because he could fly whenever, or help get your flight delayed if you’re on the clock for work for a kickback. Human avatars would be no match. Everyone would crowd around the dragon!

    Avatars at airports is such a bizarre idea. Who gave funding for this stuff? This is why we’re in such a financial mess. We should have saved that money or given it back to the people.

    • webweazel says:

      I’ll definitely take a snarling dragon over this person-thing.

      Perky, chirpy, and smiling hard until MY face hurts. People like this just annoy the hell out of me. I’d probably kick it over as I walked by rather than actually use it for anything. If I could get it to change “personalities” and ask for directions to the bathroom from Ozzy Osbourne or maybe Oderus Urungus, maybe then I’ll partake.

  18. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    As long as they don’t put these avatars in the airplane cockpit, it’s totally fine with me.

    It would be, however, very interesting when TSA starts adopting these avatars. :)

  19. Galium says:

    Just wondering, are all the avatars going to be woman avatars or are the airports going to have a ladies night? Also how does anyone check the actual sex of an avatar with all the cross dressing avatars around.

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      Check the ports if they are male/female (or both)?

  20. ronbo97 says:

    What happens when the avatars try to go through TSA security ?

  21. dcarrington01 says:

    Welcome Commander Sheppard, it has been 2 years since your last visit to the Citadel……

  22. Clyde Barrow says:

    I wonder if these are as annoying as the McDonald’s automated “teller-order suggestions” at their drive-thru’s with the volume on TEN suggesting to me what I need to eat. They are the most fricking annoying things that McD’s has ever implemented.

    Hey McD’s I don’t need to be babysitted and I can figured what I want to eat all by myself.

  23. sebastian tombs says:

    They already have this in use at Dubai airport, I saw it at Terminal 3 departures last month.

    It looks cool and somewhat realistic.