In an effort to improve its customer service operation, as well as to presumably make it a little more entertaining, officials at Indianapolis International Airport have recently rolled out a robot to complement its human-based service.
Comprising an iPad stuck atop a Segway-like contraption, ‘Double Robot’ is currently trundling around various parts of the airport building looking for visitors in need of assistance.
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To make the robot look a little more human (but only a little), a blue T-shirt – as worn by the airport’s human reps – has been lovingly affixed to the robot’s pole, where it hangs neatly just below the tablet. A message placed around the ‘neck’ of Double Robot reads: “Guest services, may I help you?”
The $2500 bot-on-wheels, developed by California-based Double Robotics, is currently being operated by guest services director Brian Eckstein, with his friendly face showing up on the iPad’s display as the robot mingles with visitors and passengers on the floor of the terminal building.
The iPad’s camera allows the operator to survey the robot’s surroundings, helping to identify those looking for help. Then it’s simply a case of using Double Robot’s controller app to swing the bot up beside the passengers (hopefully not scaring them in the process) to check if everything’s OK.
While you may not be the only one trying to work out why Brian can’t simply go and walk around the building in person, saving the airport operator thousands of dollars in the process, it’s possible his team was looking to introduce a fun element to its service, or is simply exploring ways to score some free publicity for the airport.
Airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini told the Indianapolis Star that so far most passengers have been asking the robot for directions to taxis or shuttle bus services, though according to the Star’s report, most passers-by thought it was a new security device or there to simply greet passengers.
One flier passing through the airport described Double Robot as “fantastic,” adding, “It’s great customer service. He’s a nice guy, by the way.”
Double Robotics has been developing its telepresence robots since 2011 primarily as a way of offering users a more unique and personal teleconferencing experience. Its technology can also act as a personal guide at museums or galleries, relaying video over the Web for those living too far away to visit in person.