Smart, Dancing, Bag-Carrying Robots Help Airport Travelers

Create: 03/21/2017 - 17:33
IoT robot in airlines

Photo: HMSHost


Travelers needing assistance, food or just a diversion at the Oakland International Airport need to look no further than the newest IoT helpmate, Pepper the robot. Passengers can meet and greet Pepper in front of the Pyramid Ale Taproom in Terminal 2 of the Oakland Airport. Pepper is beneficial for both travelers and the restaurant’s owners—he increases visibility of Pyramid Ale Taproom and menu options while concurrently tailoring food and drink suggestions to better customers’ overall dining experience. At the same time, Pepper is helping travelers find their way around the airport with the interactive map (which identifies gates, baggage claim and closest bathrooms) that is located on Pepper’s touchscreen chest.

Pepper was designed, created and programmed by Softbank Robotics of Tokyo, and it intentionally ensured that Pepper can successfully gauge a range of human emotions. He’s able to pick up on surprise, anger, joy and sadness. Pepper can also interpret a human’s voice tone, smile or frown as well as non-verbal language, such as the angle a person’s head is tilted, in addition to other types of body language. With all this information in mind, Pepper can determine if a person is in a positive or negative mood and respond accordingly.

Travelers will quickly notice Pepper’s human-like qualities, as well as structural and technical characteristics that include:

●     High-definition vision. He has a 3D camera for surveying surroundings and two high-resolution cameras.

●     Autonomy and movement. The robot has 360-degree movement, a maximum speed of 3km/h, 20-plus engines (back, arm and leg pieces), and a lithium-ion battery, which keeps Pepper awake for up to 12 hours at a time.

●     Wi-Fi connection. With a built-in, personal Wi-Fi network, Pepper can always access the Internet for information, music and maps.

●     Network of sensors. Pepper has a fleet of IoT sensors: two ultrasound transmitters and receivers, six laser sensors and three obstacle detectors located inside  his legs; battery sensor that indicates power level and temperature; and tactile sensors inside his hands for games and other types of social interaction.

●     Balance and control. The ability to detect obstacles and people are part of his built-in anti-collision system. Pepper can maintain balance even if someone tries to knock him over.

Greeters and Baggage Handlers

Pepper isn’t the only airport robot available for assistance. San Jose International Airport has been home to Norma, Amelia and Piper since fall 2016. This robotic crew was built by Future Robot, headquartered in South Korea. The robots are stationed on geo-fence mats at three gates and have large, 32-inch touchscreen tablets running Windows. Travelers can take photos such as selfies with the robot that can be sent via email or displayed on the screens that serve as the robots’ faces. The robots can also bust a move and play background music for a mini dance party with airport travelers.

airport IoT robots

Photo: Mineta San Jose International Airport

The San Jose crew is accessible for individuals who speak many different languages, as the robots can provide them information in French, English, German, Spanish and Japanese. While the robots don’t get a paycheck, they don’t work for free. The $120,000 robot program is paid for by several of the airport’s concessionaires, including the Hudson News Group, Pacific Gateway Concessions and HMSHost.

According to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, “Our robots offer travelers who are arriving and departing through Silicon Valley's airport with an iconic experience reflecting our region’s unique culture of innovation.”

Leo airport robots SITI

Photo: SITA

Robots are also going beyond dancing and assistance and doing some heavy lifting. At the airport in Geneva, air transport IT and communications company SITA is testing Leo, a fully autonomous, self-propelling baggage robot. Leo has the capacity to check in, print bag tags and transport up to two suitcases with a maximum weight of 32 kilograms. It also has an obstacle avoidance capability and can navigate in a high-traffic environment, such as the airport’s baggage check area and drop-off curbs.

Get Ready for Takeoff in Robotics

For solution providers, learn about Pepper and participate in robotic development with Softbank Robotics. See the tech specs and sensors used in the San Jose Airport’s crew from Future Robots, or watch Leo, SITA’s baggage robot in action as he checks in and delivers a bag.

About Author

Patricia Schnaidt's picture
Patricia Schnaidt
Patricia Schnaidt is an expert business technology writer. She has held top publishing and editorial positions at InternetWeek, Network Computing, Windows Magazine and LAN Magazine. Schnaidt has written countless articles, lectured extensively, and authored "Enterprise-wide Networking" (Prentice-Hall). She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Columbia College, Columbia University.

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