Christchurch Airport trials Pepper the robot

The airport is looking to see how the robot interacts with visitors to the airport.

Christchurch Airport has started trials of Pepper the robot at its terminal.

The airport has been trialling three Pepper robots at the airport for a few months while staff test what Pepper can and could do. Now one is spending time in the passenger terminal to learn more.

Pepper is a robot designed to interact with humans. It is 120 cm tall, can recognise faces and basic human emotions, respond to requests made on the touch screen on its chest, and hold a conversation. At the moment, topics of conversation are limited, but growing all the time.

The airport is looking to see how the robot interacts with visitors to the airport.

Malcolm Johns, Airport Chief Executive:

“We want to understand robots to consider what they can and might do to assist us and our airport visitors. We are interested to see what people think and feel about interacting with a robot and what information they get and might like from it.

“Pepper is our first step in that direction and what I hope is the first of many robotic innovations people will see here over the next 10 to 20 years.”

Pepper is located in the Digital Innovation Zone on the first floor of the airport terminal for a few hours each Monday to Friday.

Pepper will have a minder paying close attention to what happens when it makes new friends. The robot gets ‘tired’ after a day’s learning, so some visitors will see it re-charging behind glass alongside information to help people understand what is happening.

The airport is encouraging passengers to start a conversation by asking for a selfie and then sharing share their photos and videos with friends and family all over the world.

Christchurch Airport already has an Autonomous Smart Shuttle and Virtual Reality training for its fire service.

At the same time, another Pepper will be put through its paces with University of Canterbury’s (UC) Human Interface Technology Lab NZ (HIT Lab NZ), in a continuation of the collaboration between the airport and the university. Christchurch is lending the HIT Lab a Pepper for students to understand and suggest how it could enhance passenger journeys.

Pepper at other airports

Pepper is currently the robot most used or trialled by airline and airports. Here are a few stories on about Pepper.

The number of robots trialled at airports (and ports) is increasing and includes:

Kokoro, the very human like assistant at Narita, AnBot at Shenzhen Airport with the cattle prod and the Sheldon Cooper lookalike at Indianapolis remain in the top three.

N.B. Image credit: Softbank  Robotics

Internet links

ChristchurchAirport (CHC)

Softbank Robotics