Virtual Assistants

Tom Allett reports on the UK’s introduction of holographic ‘staff’.
Two UK airports – Luton and Manchester – have recently taken the innovative step of introducing a new kind of airport helper.  Known officially as Virtual Assistants (VAs), they are in fact life-size holograms.  As and when required they announce their message to departing passengers.
On January 31, a press event was held at London Luton to introduce its new team members; dubbed ‘Holly’ and ‘Graham’ (Holly-Graham – get it?) by the airport’s real staff.  Both VAs ‘work’ at the entrance to the departure security lanes, communicating important security messages as passengers pass from check-in to the departure lounge.
Aside from the obvious novelty factor, it is hoped that having a ‘virtual person’ delivering helpful advice to passengers will be far more attention grabbing than a simple audio announcement or traditional sign.

London Luton Airport has introduced two new ‘staff members’: ‘Holly’ and ‘Graham’. (KEY-Tony Dixon)

London Luton says its VAs are part of a series of initiatives aimed at simplifying the security process and improving the experience for passengers.  Initially ‘Holly’ and ‘Graham’ are deployed for a trial period within the Central Search Area (CSA), where passengers and their hand luggage are checked.  They will be used to brief passengers on the preparations they need to make before undergoing the security search.  The trial will last for four to eight weeks and will measure a variety of indicators, including the amount of time spent by passengers in the CSA.
The airport says that should the trial prove successful, passengers can look forward to seeing Holly and Graham throughout the airport, in operational roles, offering passenger information and for use by retail outlets within the terminal building.
Glyn Jones, Managing Director of London Luton Airport, said:
“London Luton Airport is proud to be the first airport in the world to introduce this holographic technology in a commercial, operational environment, so I am delighted to welcome Holly and Graham to the team.  We are confident that our two new staff members will help improve the experience for our passengers by communicating key security messages in a way that is both consistent and compelling.  This should help our passengers pass safely and swiftly through the airport.”