Robots arrive at Silicon Valley airport

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Mineta San Jose International Airport, California, also referred to as Silicon Valley’s airport, has unveiled its new customer service agents – Norma, Amelia and Piper – which are said to be the first robots to be deployed at a US airport.

Stationed on geofence mats and located at three of the gates, the robots use their avatar-friendly faces to engage travelers, and assist and entertain them as they navigate the airport.

Among their abilities, Norma, Amelia and Piper can offer shopping and dining information via their 32in tablet screens, and present a terminal map and directory in six languages (English, Chinese, French, German, Spanish and Japanese). They will also dance, play music or take photos, that are sent to the traveler’s email account or shown on screen.

A number of airports around the world offer similar robotic assistants, including Narita in Tokyo, Japan; Edmonton in Alberta, Canada; and Schipol in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The examples at Mineta San Jose were built by Future Robot, a company in South Korea, then programmed by a local tech firm in Silicon Valley, 22 Miles. Each has been named after an aviation pioneer – Norman Y Mineta, the former San Jose mayor, congressman and US secretary of transportation and commerce, which the airport is named after; Amelia M Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean; and William T Piper, a US aircraft manufacturer.

Kim Becker, director of aviation at Mineta San Jose International Airport, said, “We are proud to be the first-to-market among US airports, and to join other world class airports in Asia, Canada and Europe, to offer robots as we reimagine the customer experience.

“We are accomplishing our mission – to connect, serve and inspire – with an innovative approach to customer service for our local travelers and global visitors through our successful partnerships with our concessionaires, Future Robot and 22 Miles.” 

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Helen has worked for UKi Media & Events for nearly a decade. She joined the company as assistant editor on Passenger Terminal World and since progressed to become editor of five publications, covering everything from aviation, logistics and e-commerce to meteorology. She has a love for travel and property and has redeveloped three houses in three years. When she’s not editing magazines, she’s running around after her two boys and their partner in crime, Pete the pug.

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