Talking Flat Lady Now Being Ignored By Travelers At Major NYC Airports

May 23, 2012 by Dave Haynes

A hat tip to the sales guys who managed to get the New York Port Authority to drop $180K on those eternally stupid Talking Flat Lady things for use at the city’s three main airports.

ABC News says the devices were unveiled this week at Newark Liberty and La Guardia airports, and JFK will also have the virtual mannequin things.

The Port Authority is said to be renting them for about $180,000 for six months. One report suggests each unit is worth $250K, which I can’t fathom being accurate. It’s a projector, some Vikuiti film and a speaker all packaged up together as one.

The decision was made to use the things based on traveler intercept surveys. “One of the things people said in the surveys was that they wanted more human interaction,” said an airport official.

The only way to make the experience better at La Guardia would be to bulldoze it, and the same could be said for things like the Delta terminal at JFK. $30K a month could pay some actual humans to provide actual interaction.

The virtual mannequin thing was interesting when it was first done almost four years ago, but is getting old and is purely a short-term novelty thing. I’ve got nothing but admiration for the people successfully selling it, and nothing but rolled eyes for the people who think the technology is effective and actually addresses real operating issues like overcrowded, chaotic airport concourses.

If they really do get $250K selling these units, these sales guys are masters of the universe.

A separate story suggests the units are more like $60K each, which makes more sense but is still crazy high.

I really like the 3M projection film and some of the applications of it, but these things just defy business logic.

Photo from Bergen Record

  1. Eric Schmidt says:

    What blows me away is the notion that visitors are requesting “more human interaction”, and the solution is to put in fake people… Remarkable. How much more powerful would it be to equip a currently existing information booth with a live “host” or guide, a large format display with an attract loop that encourages interaction, and follow-on interactive content that the guide can walk a visitor through – perhaps even helping send the info to a smartphone or printer for the visitor to take with them…

  2. Geof Jones says:

    This really goes to show there are some stupid people paying far too much money from resellers who exploit them . We manufacture virtual mannequins and our top of the range interactive one is under 10k – the looping media player ones considerably cheaper.
    Authorities and brands need to wake up and check the market before they purchase from what is most likely a “closed” loop of an overpriced list of approved supplier – These governments and authorities set out their stalls to be ripped off – When then can get a better service, better product from the smaller companies.
    The other point is like any medium (posters, digital signage screens included) if the information doesn’t change alert or engage, you will soon ignore the message. We have successfully produced the virtual Nurse which has hand gel dispensers built in, encouraging visitors to the hospital to use them – which they do with great success.
    We have some other great innovations with Virtual mannequins about to be rolled out – watch this space.

  3. gonzobrains says:

    The WSJ link doesn’t work. Do you have another to reference?

  4. Dave Haynes says:

    Dear, ummm, gonzobrains …

    I have updated the link to an ABC News report … thx for flagging the dead link

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