French air travelers welcomed aboard by virtual airline staff
Monday, August 29, 2011 - 01:55
Aug. 29 - Travelers boarding flights at Paris's Orly airport are getting a taste of what may be the future, with virtual boarding agents welcoming them aboard, rather than real people. The holograms look and sound like airline personnel but are, in fact, video images being tested on the traveling public. Ludovic Vickers reports.
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Passengers flying out of Orly airport are greeted by the unusual sight of holograms as they embark on their flight, in a new innovative measure designed to improve customer service.
At first glance, some amused travellers mistake the holograms for a cardboard cut-out or a real person.
But for airport director Charles Telitsine, the humanised device is much more than just a gimmick.
(SOUNDBITE)(French) CHARLES TELITSINE, ORLY WEST AIRPORT DIRECTOR SAYING:
"She informs our passengers, replacing a plasma screen. And very clearly, it's a 'Wow' effect for our clients since it attracts children and incites passengers to come have a look. Somewhere, it also passes the time in the waiting room."
Three employees from the airport were used to create the holograms' faces, in a process involving green screens and custom-cut plexiglass.
Orly unveiled the system on July 4 but has so far only released three holograms, testing the technology for glitches and bugs.
(SOUNDBITE)(French) BERNARD HEGOBURU, HEAD ENGINEER AT ORLY WEST AIRPORT SAYING:
"When the aviation company is ready for boarding, it emits a code through its IT system. This code then sends out a red 'boarding' message which is seen by passengers throughout the Orly West terminal. We then retrieve this information through our IT system and launch the projector, located behind the silhouette, in order to display the person you see behind me."
A recent press release by the airport says the holograms are designed to support airport staff and convey the airport's message of attention to travellers, all the while surprising them.
(SOUNDBITE)(French) DANIELLE LAPEYRONIE, PASSENGER SAYING:
"I find the holograms funny, yes. And it indicates the destination quite clearly. And on top of that, on a little upside, his head reminds me of my previous boss. So it makes me laugh even more."
If Orly deploy more holograms in the future, the technology could very well become a reference to help passengers find their way.
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