Says Brad Martin, airport deputy director of aviation customer service at Boston Logan International, "We are finding that passengers will pay attention to this hologram concept."
That is, a projection of a human being relating the same messages as the static signs located at the main security checkpoint in Terminal E (Logan's primary international checkpoint).
"Passengers pay attention and listen, and intuitively follow-though with what ‘Carla’ says about the checkpoint security procedure and the divesting process," he adds.
The Tensator Virtual Assistant cost was approximately $26,000. The company has received good response from installations in Europe; passengers are being processed slightly quicker through the checkpoint areas, says Martin.
Boston is the second airport installation in the U.S. for Tensator; Washington Dulles has employed a virtual assistant to welcome passengers in its Customers and Border Protection hall.
With regard to installation, it was really quite simple, comments Martin. "Tensator gave us our choice in the design of the cabinetry that holds the projector and the mount for the mannequin. All we had to do was have a power source in the vicinity; we installed a surface-mounted electrical switch under the unit so no one could unplug it."
'Carla' was set up in less than a couple hours, and can run 24-7. The unit is mobile and can be moved to other parts of the terminal.
"Our goal is to see how it does at our slowest checkpoint; the language barrier can be problematic," remarks Martin. "‘Carla’ is saying everything that is on the six or seven signs in the security checkpoint area; she is also fluent in Spanish."
The projection is a looped film of an actress that is projected onto a thin translucent panel. The video can be swapped out for different messaging. The cost for the airport to change the projection to a new video is between $600 and $800 depending on how much content is required for a particular message.
The video loop runs in English, then Spanish, for a little more than four minutes.
How does the virtual assistant fit into the overal scheme of things at Logan? "Basically, our goal is to humanize everything a little bit more," says Martin, adding that passengers have related: 'Its better than having TSA yell at you when divesting at the checkpoint.'
The airport plans to work with TSA to see if throughput has improved. Says Martin, "We want to speed up the process as well as make it more customer friendly. If throughput is increased, we would seriously consider growing this concept at other checkpoints."
With regard to enhancing customer service at the airport setting, a role supplied traditionally by airlines but has been lacking of late due to carrier cost-cutting, Martin comments, "I have a fairly large team involved in customer service here at the airport. Yes, people here are airline passengers, but they're Logan’s customers, and we want to make their experience as best as possible."
As display technology continues to advance at the airport terminal setting, I envision 'Carla' as a step toward the concept in the tech-heavy Steven Spielberg film, Minority Report. I suppose it won't be long before hologram advertisements are calling me out as I walk to the gate to board my plane.
View a video of Carla here: http://www.youtube.com/massportbos
Thanks for your interest,