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Wednesday, November 2, 2016, 20:44

Smart robotics to welcome travelers

By Wang Yuke

Smart robotics to welcome travelers
Two women look on near a self checking counter at the in-town check-in facility of the international airport, in Hong Kong on Aug 18, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez)

Smart robotics and applications will be used at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to entertain and help travelers during their stay there.

As technology develops at a rapid pace, artificial intelligence (AI) is being democratized for every person and organization, explained Joelle Woo.

Woo, director of business development and developer experience of Microsoft Hong Kong, made these comments during the HKIA Technovation Exhibition and Conference 2016.

The result will be that AI-based technologies will become pervasive in everyday life. They will function as a working agent, facilitating interpersonal communication and providing personalized recommendations.

The airport will benefit from this in the not-too-distant future, said Woo. She noted that Microsoft has built a system called Cortana Intelligence which has powerful speech and image recognition abilities.

The system can recognize a customer's image and instantly make correlations between the individual's face and purchasing patterns.

When a customer enters a shop at the airport, the salesperson can give sound recommendations based on the person's preferences.

The system can also tell a traveler how much time he or she needs to leave in advance to avoid missing a flight. It does this by analyzing real time traffic data.

When a customer enters a shop at the airport, the salesperson can give sound recommendat-ions based on the person's preferences

A Chatbot, a robotic equivalent of WeChat, would be made available soon - probably in a few months, said Andy Bien, chief information officer of Airport Authority Hong Kong.

This is a messaging platform or mobile app similar to WeChat that allows airport customers to ask any question using their native language, such as "where to buy a Gucci bag?”, "How to get to this shop?” and “Which shop is closed and which is open?"

After receiving the question the system will automatically text an answer back to the user. The application utilizes machine's speech and text recognition abilities.

Cathy Pacific would pilot the system in a few weeks, Bien said.

There will be more AI-based technologies coming out in the airport in the near future. But Bien said they won't use the technologies for the sake of it.  "We will design the technology to meet customers’ demand.

"If there's really a need out there, we will seek an AI solution to meet specific needs because customers today need a virtual assistant to navigate them while they are traveling," Bien explained.

Another helpful application which may debut in six months is a luggage notification system, said Bien.

It's a common problem for most travelers that they have to wait a long time at the carousel to pick up their luggage. Thanks to the notification system, people will be notified as soon as their luggage is on the carousel. This means passengers won't have to wait for long periods.

As some machines are more and more intelligent, confidentiality concerns are always a problem. Bien is not worried about this. He said customers' private information would never be used without their consent.

An airport e-shop is projected to be launched in six months. But before this, an online-to-offline trial will be conducted. This is to see whether there is any controversy or dispute around the new attempt.

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