Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands has today (November 30) started trials for a passenger assistance robot called Spencer, developed in partnership with Dutch airline KLM and Örebro University in Sweden.
The initiative was originally conceived by KLM to help reduce costs associated with passengers missing connecting flights, however, the robot’s applications have now been extended to include general wayfinding. The mobile robot is capable of communicating with passengers in multiple languages and can access and display numerous maps to help find gates and other amenities.
Achim Lilienthal, professor of computer science and the project manager for Örebro University, said, “The airport is a challenging place to navigate, with so much glass and an environment that is constantly changing, with temporary obstacles such as parked luggage carts and people.
“It is not so difficult to contend with moving people. It is worse with objects that can be temporarily viewed as permanent. For example, we do not know how long a luggage trolley will be parked, so it makes it difficult for the robot to know where it is located.”
To help combat these difficulties, Spencer uses a laser guidance system that measures the distance to stationary objects and people, helping it to move safely through the terminals. The robot will be trialed at Schiphol for one week before being officially deployed in March 2016.