The Newest Airport Trend: Virtual Airport Greeters

In a scene that may feel straight out of the film Total Recall, airports across the country are utilizing new technology to help passengers move through lines more quickly. Now, when passengers stand in line in Boston’s Logan International airport, they will receive instructions from a woman named Carla. The only hitch, however, is that they can’t ask Carla questions, because she’s a 3-D video projection.

In the Dulles International Airport, virtual greeter, Paige, has been helping travelers navigate customs since May. The bilingual hologram-like installation explains to customers that they can’t have liquid items over 3.4 ounces and she also instructs them to remove their shoes before they are inspected for boarding.

There are numerous signs all over airports explaining airline and FAA rules to passengers, but Ed Freni, the Director of Aviation at Logan Airport, believes that Carla works better because she grabs people’s attention. How much she’s been effective will be determined after her 3-month trial period.

The idea behind Carla and Paige is that they can free up TSA agents to focus on the screening of passengers without having to prepare travelers for the process. As the hologram-like women explain to travelers that they need to remove their coats, laptops, liquids and medicines from carry-on bags for inspection, hopefully they will ease the flow of congestion that so often occurs during airline travel. It’s estimated that over 6,000 travelers a day will stand in line receiving instructions from Carla, and many passengers will be Spanish-speakers, which is why she painstakingly repeats her instructions in both English and Spanish.

Neither Carla nor Paige are new to airports: there are other hologram-like installations in Europe and the United Arab Emirates. The Boston and Dulles installations were created by New York-based Tensator and, along with English and Spanish, they are capable of speaking many other languages too. They sell for $26,000. Other virtual assistants will make their debut in La Guardia, JFK and Newark Liberty airports starting in July.

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