As much as I dislike Talking Flat Ladies, they’ve gone over well enough – very surprisingly – at Logan Airport in Boston to merit ordering another three of the virtual assistant projection thingdoodles
And the company that’s been championing the things is introducing a new version next week that I actually kinda sorta like, again very suprisingly.
In Boston, Tensator has an order for three more Virtual Assistants to be deployed at Terminals A, B and C. The things take the place of a human droning on and on and on about boarding passes, federal regulations regarding liquids, garment removal and x-ray machine instructions. Messages are delivered 24/7 in both English and Spanish.
The problem I have with “Carly” is the gimmicky nature of the things, which look more like overpriced merchandising displays that usually need to get roped off so that people don’t monkey with them.
That’s why I kinda sorta like a newer small footprint thingie that will be shown at the Airport Show in Dubai next week.
The Virtual Assistant Ultra’s projection footprint is roughly 20″ square (50 cm) and is just the upper torso and head, planted behind what looks like a podium but is really the enclosure for the short-throw projection system, PC and speaker(s). If you travel, you are pretty accustomed to walking up to security people sitting behind podiums to get your passport and boarding pass OK’d. THIS looks like THAT, which is clever.
Tensator says the units “can fit almost anywhere within an airport terminal, including check-in desks, security areas and within an aisle or as part of the aisle end caps in retail units. This creates a flexible point of difference for conveying important security messages, dealing with frequently asked questions from passengers and helping airport retailers to promote special offers and product information in an innovative way to ultimately increase revenues.”
Abdel Aziz Rahal, general manager of Tensator FZE, says the new version was tuned to sector needs:
“It’s about having an open dialogue, listening to the needs of the market and being in a position to act accordingly. This is exactly what our product development team has been able to do with the Virtual Assistant Ultra. By embracing technology, we’ve maintained our market-leading position, and reputation as innovators, by creating a product with the smallest footprint available.”
Dubai International has been using Talking Flat Ladies since 2011 and even has an interactive version, which makes me wonder what you do. Pinch her virtual nose?
Anyway, I doubt I will ever be won over to the big footprint, roped off versions of these things (they’re roped off, I’m guessing, so that some tired, stressed passengers don’t sucker-punch Carly), but these smaller ones make some real sense if the price isn’t crazy. The company also showed a variation on this at GlobalShop in Chicago recently.
Image of the Ultra is not very well Photoshopped, but gives you the idea.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.