Three customer service robots land in San Jose airport

Norma, Amelia, and Piper joined the San Jose airport staff in October

Silicon Valley is synonymous with innovation and high-tech, and Mineta San Jose International Airport wants to make sure travelers know it. The Silicon Valley travel hub is the first airport in the U.S. to introduce customer service robots. The three robotic gals (stationed in front of gates 11, 21, and 25) provide travelers with entertainment, as well as directions to dining and shopping destinations. 

"It’s very important for Silicon Valley’s airport to offer services for our travelers that are iconic to our region...we want to create a sense of place," said Rosemary Barnes, a public information manager at San Jose airport. 

The bots are not only iconic to the region. They're a shoutout to the industry as a whole. If the names Norma, Amelia, and Piper sound familiar, it's because they refer to a group of aviation pioneers. Norman Mineta is the airport's namesake and a former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Commerce. Amelia Earhart was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic, and William Piper, who founded the well known Piper Aircraft company. 

The $120,000 project was financed by the airport's concessionaires, for whom the bots act as an innovative form of marketing. The trio get their doe eyed anime looks from South Korean manufacturer, Future Robot, though their smarts come from Silicon Valley's 22Miles, which worked closely with the airport to program the bots. For now, Norma, Piper, and Amelia are limited to showing travelers interactive maps of the airport, taking selfies, and dancing in their geo-fenced mats. But, visitors are already making suggestions for improvements. 

san jose airport robots Martyn Williams

South Korean manufacturer, Future Robot, gave the assistants their iconic anime looks. 

“Even though we offer free and fast WiFi here in our terminal and have done so for many years, his [the visitor's] feedback was, can you please share with us how to get WiFi here at the airport? He said that should be the number one item displayed on the robot," Barnes said. 

Another traveler suggested the robots be able to recognize and greet him by name. Though this would likely give some travelers the creeps.

With the project still in it's infancy, 22Miles and the airport have been gathering information on how travelers interact with the robots. As of now, numbers show requests for dancing and selfies topping the list, but Richard Towner from 22Miles says this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

san jose airport robots Martyn Williams

22Miles and San Jose International Airport are gathering data on how travelers interact with the service robots. 

“Everything you see here is just built out ready to go, but we can integrate with other systems. For example, like an IBM Watson intelligence engine and in basics terms it’s crawling now, but we can have it walking and talking later.”

Towner says 22Miles is already working with Boston Logan International Airport to integrate the company's software with IBM's Watson AI in a fixed kiosk. The company has also been working with a number of other airports to equip robots with scanners, which would allow passengers to get information on where they should be going, as well as receive suggestions of stores and concessions along the way. 

Other airports across the globe have already adopted robotic assistants. This includes Narita International Airport in Japan, Edmonton International Airport in Canada, and Schiphol airport in the Netherlands. Barnes says Los Angeles International Airport and San Diego International Airport have also expressed interest in the program.  

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Magdalena Petrova

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?