Social robots have been finding a rapid uptake as customer service agents in major airports around the world.

Robots in Airports

Pepper Robot and other social robots have become extremely popular investments for the world's airports in recent times.

Pepper has been deployed by Glasgow Airport in Scotland, Oakland Airport in California, and Songshan and Taoyuan International Airports in China.

Nao is in use at Haneda Airport in Japan, alongside a fleet of other robots.

Other social robots and baggage-carrying robots have been in action at Geneva Airport in Switzerland, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, and San Jose Airport in California.

So what can Pepper and other social robots do for airports?

Chiefly they are useful as receptionists and customer service and sales agents, but they can also be deployed as entertainers. They can:

  • Greet travellers
  • Play music, dance and entertain children
  • Hold conversations with travellers during long waiting times
  • Check travellers in and provide boarding cards
  • Provide information about flights, including arrivals, departures and connections
  • Take bookings for flights
  • Answer questions about the way to different facilities and terminals
  • Provide information of interest to tourists regarding local accommodation, facilities and things to do

Robots in Train Stations & Bus Stations

Much the same range of duties as applies to social robots in airports can be assigned to their counterparts at railway stations (or as they are more commonly known internationally, train stations), bus stations and coach stations.

As busy transport hubs where customers often have to wait for some time, they have almost identical logistical justifications for the use of customer service robots. These can:

  • Provide platform / stand, departure and arrivals information for trains, coaches and buses
  • Provide information on routes and connections
  • Give details of the services (e.g. buffet cars; first class carriages; quiet carriages) available on particular trains
  • Sell tickets
  • Give information about particular towns and cities on the rail, coach or bus network

Pepper Robot was deployed in three train stations by the French national rail organisation SNCF for a trial period between December 2015 and March 2016. Its duties included welcoming customers; providing information on rail journey fares and timetables; and giving information about the surrounding locality. It was programmed to answer all the more commonly asked questions from the general public that would normally be asked to human railway staff and ticket officers.