New York and London airport avatars: Is faking it better than the real thing?

New York and London airport avatars: Is faking it better than the real thing?

She's not really there, but she can solve your airport dilemmas. Meet AVA, the virtual assistant

"I can be whatever you want me to be." As Jimmy Kimmel asks, "How is this not a sex robot?"


What's better than real human contact? Virtual human contact, of course.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced last week that life-size digital projections of customer care representatives will start work this summer at three airports.

After reviewing about 10,000 comments from the public, the Port Authority found that travelers want more human interaction when transiting through airports.

Instead of training existing staff, machines that project virtual assistants have been rented for a six-month trial, costing US$180,000.

Read more on CNN: Digital avatars to guide travelers at New York airports

The virtual assistant is a hologram of a female representative projected onto a pane of glass. Dubbed "AVA," the 2D avatar can guide travelers to the nearest bathroom or help them find their connecting flight.

"Maybe customers will feel more comfortable listening to an avatar than a live person," says Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico.

Otaku around the world are furiously nodding their heads.

Robots beats humans ... again

From a management point of view, technology wins over real human staff. AVA doesn't take toilet breaks and doesn't whinge.

Travelers will encounter the units in JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports. If AVA proves popular, the authority may purchase the avatars permanently for US$250,000 per unit.

Meet Briton "Holly." More helpful, from all reports, than her U.S. counterpart. And less over-the-top smiley.

Across the Atlantic, the Brits have been in the hologram game since the start of 2011. Birmingham, Bristol and London Luton airports were the first to install the technology.

London's holograms were intended to attract travelers' attention, particularly when they're preparing to go through security checks.

Dubbed "Holly" and "Graham," they remind travelers what they can and cannot bring through security, resulting in fewer travelers being stopped and searched.

Since the introduction of the technology, Future Travel Experience reports that the number of bags being incorrectly packed at London Luton security checks has been reduced by 5 percent.

France and Germany were among other European countries to adopt the technology last year.

But what we really want to know is: how appealing are the hologram assistants?

Well, it depends on personal tastes. AVA, from the United States, has a permanent Julia Roberts smile and a kindergarten-teacher-on-uppers demeanor. She makes us feel like spoiled children.

And she never closes her mouth. Some may find it kinky. Others could find it creepy.

See AVA here. See Jimmy Kimmel's judgment on AVA here.

London's Holly is wholesome, professional and actually helpful.

On that non-scientific basis, we have our money on AVA.

Leave your judgment of the airport holograms in the comments box below.

After traveling around the world on a fistful of dollars, Zoe returns to Hong Kong, where she grew up, to discover and write about all the inspiring stuff that happens here on a daily basis.

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