Busy British Airports Rely on Virtual Assistants

Holographic help: Holly and Graham are available to assist confused travelers

Meet Holly, your virtual assistant, at London Luton Airport. Screen grab from tensator.com.

With just days to go until the July 27 opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, travelers are streaming into London’s airports. The Guardian reported on July 16 that Heathrow Airport was expecting 236,900 passengers that day, some 47,000 above normal (of these, only 335 were Olympic athletes).

Arriving visitors may have already met “Holly” or “Graham,” virtual assistants installed in January 2011 to help passengers better understand airport procedures, including security measures. (Watch the company video at the bottom of the page.)

“We currently have Tensator Virtual Assistants installed within a number of UK airports, including London Luton, Bristol, Edinburgh, Birmingham,” says Louise Francis of Tensator. (The company has also placed virtual assistants in the United States, at Boston Logan and Dulles International.)

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is testing five of Arius Media’s AVAs, or Airport Virtual Assistants (see below), which have been placed in Newark Liberty International Airport, LaGuardia, and JFK International Airport. The airports serve 106 million passengers annually. The hologram will give directions to taxi stands and bus stops, as well as outline airport security measures.

Ava the Avatar: "I never take a break, don't charge overtime, hardly ever take sick leave, and I don't need a background check.... I can dress the way you want." Screen grab from AirportOne.com.

In a press release, the Port Authority noted that the avatars are part of an improvement plan directly resulting from a survey of more than 10,000 air passengers.

DigitalTrends reported that the Port Authority is paying $180,000 for a six-month rental. (The units sell for $250,000 each.)



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