Airports Get Smarter Thanks to Robot Helpers

  • By Hong Jun-ki

    August 09, 2017 12:07

    Korean airports are transforming themselves into "smart" travel hubs with the help of new technologies. Incheon International Airport introduced a guide robot called Air Star last month whose job is to help travelers find mobile phone roaming service centers and restaurants in the sprawling airport and tell them which check-in counter to go to.

    A 10.1-inch touch screen on the "face" of the robot offers Korea, English, Chinese and Japanese language options, and users simply have to say "Air Star" to access a wide range of question options on the screen. Air Star even tells the user how long it will take to get to the desired destination within the airport. Incheon is operating five Air Stars.

    A staffer at LG Electronics, which developed the robot, said, "It still doesn't understand regional accents, so we'll have to update that function."

    A guide robot helps a family find their way at Incheon International Airport on Tuesday.

    Five other robots have also been deployed to clean the floors. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Tuesday said it is working to make domestic airports "hi-tech and smart."

    Under the plan, a wide range of robots will be introduced by 2022 to handle basic troubleshooting, shopping assistance, check-in and security.

    An Incheon airport staffer said, "A humanoid robot that can speak four languages and is capable of learning will be deployed in 2019. We are also planning to have in place a 'welcome robot' that will greet passengers and help them pass through immigration." 

    Korea Airports Corporation will test-run air-purifying robots in Novembers -- two at Gimpo International Airport and one at Jeju International Airport -- and two guide robots at Gimpo.

    In the near future travelers on domestic flights will be able to verify their identities through fingerprint, iris or hand recognition technology. Domestic fliers have been required to bring their identification cards since July of this year in order to board local flights, but the new system will do away with that.

    A KAC staffer said, "Around early next year, we're setting up a separate gate for those who wish to have their IDs verified through biometric data."

    Gimpo, Jeju and Gimhae airports will set up walk-through security checks by 2021 where travelers simply have to walk through a tunnel with their bags before boarding flights.

    Hi-tech systems enabling airline travelers to check their baggage at bus terminals or subway stations will be available around 2021.

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