Aviation

Air NZ trials future of travel with social robots

Air New Zealand customers at Sydney Airport will get to experience the role robots may play in future travel journeys this week.

The airline is partnering with CommBank in a five-day experiment utilising Chip CANdroid, the bank’s social humanoid robot, which will interact with and assist Air NZ customers checking in and at the gate prior to boarding.

Air New Zealand Chief Digital Officer Avi Golan said, “This partnership and experiment with Commbank and Chip is another way we are pushing the boundaries to ensure we remain at the forefront of technology which will allow us to further enhance the experience we offer our customers.”

Air New Zealand has worked with a range of technology partners to introduce innovations which are enhancing the experience it offers customers.

For example, Oscar, the artificial intelligence–backed chatbot has been introduced to assist customers with a more personalised online experience or biometric bag drops which identify customers using face-to-passport recognition.

“We are also experimenting with potential enhancements of the future, including the idea of our cabin crew one day using Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality viewers onboard our aircraft,” said Golan.

Commonwealth Bank established a social robotics team within its Sydney Innovation Lab in late 2016, with the goal of partnering with different businesses to get robots out of the concept stage and into commercial contexts.

Tiziana Bianco, General Manager Innovation Labs, Commonwealth Bank said, “This experiment is a great example of why we invested in social robotics; working collaboratively with an innovative client like Air New Zealand, while also engaging some of the brilliant minds from UTS’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to explore the possibilities of a horizon technology such as social robotics, and what it might enable in the future.”

Bianco added social robots can bring to life information that is not particularly engaging when delivered by a screen.

“People interact with them in a very social and sometimes emotional way, which means they can enhance experiences in ways that other technologies are unable to do,” she said.

“Chip is one of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world, and is perfect for our work aimed at understanding how humans and robots interact in dynamic social spaces.

“The opportunity to experiment with a robot like Chip in a real world environment such as Sydney Airport is unique, even on a global scale.”

Air New Zealand customers can meet Chip at the Air New Zealand check-in counter and at selected departure gates at Sydney International Airport until Friday 25 August.

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