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"Intelligent" Avatars Poised To Manage Airline Check-In

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the even-better-than-the-real-thing dept.

Transportation 102

An anonymous reader writes One of the developers behind special effects used in the film Avatar has inked a deal with airline check-in kiosk manufacturer BCS to implement avatars for personalized and interactive customer service. Dr Mark Sagar's Limbic IO is applying 'neurobehavioral animation' combining biologically based models of faces and neural systems to create live, naturally intelligent, and expressive interactive systems. "One of the comments levelled at self-service check in is that it has lost the human touch that people had when checking in at a traditional manned counter," Patrick Teo, BCS CEO says. "Travelling can be stressful and our aim is to make the interaction between human (passenger) and computer (check-in) as natural and helpful as possible."

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nice job (5, Insightful)

alphatel (1450715) | about 5 months ago | (#47494533)

Yes we all want interactive terminals at the airport. We are not at all concerned about waiting 1 hour to checks bags, another hour to get through security and a third useful hour spent waiting to board. No, let's get hyper-aggressive about how the computer looks at the airport.

MOD PARENT DOWN! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494549)

Have you no soul?

Re:nice job (0)

wealthychef (584778) | about 5 months ago | (#47494561)

Yes, we have it so bad. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

Re:nice job (4, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | about 5 months ago | (#47494847)

I don't think the OPs point was that the waits for check in and security are such that the miracle that is manned flight has been wasted upon us. Rather that if we are going to spend money (and yes any cost comes from tickets, so it's a collective we that will pay for this) perhaps there are other parts of the airport experience that would deliver a better return.

Frankly when I have been able to use automated check in, the existing terminals have been pretty clear and efficient. They're certainly not the most stressful part of the flying experience.

Re:nice job (1, Redundant)

wealthychef (584778) | about 5 months ago | (#47494881)

I agree and disagree. I agree that these new terminals are a waste of money from a "please the customer" standpoint. However, clearly the idea that flying in the modern age is stressful is evidence that the miracle of modern flight is wasted on us. Because there is occasionally a 3 hour delay to a 5 hour flight to cross the country, somehow this is an unacceptable level of stress in our lives? In historical context, this is absurd. I just add 2-3 hours to my flight times and don't worry. If we can speed it up, great. But if not, we are already experiencing a miracle by the standards of a generation ago!

Re:nice job (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#47495367)

The trouble with progress as a cure for stress is twofold:

One, expectations tend to grow as fast, sometimes faster, than capabilities. Unless you are traveling without any connecting flights and on a very leisurely schedule, everyone's assumptions about where you'll be and when will be calibrated to 'your flight; but on time', so delays that would have faded into the noise historically will now throw you off.

Perhaps more fundamentally it appears to be the powerlessness rather than the absolute time that stresses people out, and being at the mercy of complex systems run by other people is beautifully designed to rub your face in powerlessness. Technology has, of course, increased our absolute level of power by chiseling away at the domain of 'nope, go try placating the spirits or something'; but all those places where it used to be that nobody had any control, now somebody; but not you, has control and you can't quite shake the impression that they are jerking you around.

Re:nice job (2)

cptdondo (59460) | about 5 months ago | (#47495767)

You clearly have not been through some of the airports that I have. It's not the wait; it's the incredibly rude and arrogant staff. I've been yelled at by someone with a bullhorn, had my passport thrown at me, been told to "step aside" when my flight was cancelled and I need to reroute.... I could go on and on.

A nice avatar isn't going to help any of that, unless it means getting rid of the worst offenders that I've run into.

Some airlines (not all, but certainly some) could take that money and use it to train their ground staff in basic customer service; that would provide much better return than a bobbing head on a screen.

That being said, some airlines, and some specific people at these airlines, are shining examples of customer service and dedication, and by and large have saved my trips time and time again.

Re:nice job (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 5 months ago | (#47495373)

In general, I'd much rather use the kiosks (or, ideally, check in using the web or a mobile app) than go to a human check-in desk precisely because it presents the information more efficiently and it's a lot faster than a face-to-face interaction would be. The only time I prefer to go to the human-behind-a-desk lines are when I'm doing something unusual (e.g. my flight's delayed enough that I'll miss my connection and I need re-routing[1]) and I need an actual brain on the other side of the conversation (contrary to popular belief, I've found the people at the desks to be very helpful - and quite creative - in this regard). For anything purely routine, don't pretend to be a human, just give me an efficient interface.

[1] Actually, given that this has happened on about 70% of my trips to the USA over the last couple of years, I can't really justify calling it unusual.

Re:nice job (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 5 months ago | (#47498095)

You've never traveled with children, have you? Trust me, all sorts of odd situations occur that require a human to intervene to process special/last minute requests.

Re:nice job (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 5 months ago | (#47498877)

This "intelligent avatar" thing, however, is probably going to be the worst of both worlds: the slowness of human interaction (waiting for an artificially generated face to actually speak out the words instead of just skimming the text on the screen in a fraction of the time) combined with a complete lack of common sense. And of course the avatar is going to speak as slowly as possible to make sure even the most retarded passenger can understand it, etc...

I really hope they'll at least include a start screen with two options: text based or avatar. But more than likely, they'll be so proud of their incredible technological achievement that you'll have no such choice.

nice job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494701)

I'm sure manually processing everything will help with delays and stress.

Re:nice job (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 5 months ago | (#47494947)

Clippy check-in:
I see you have some bags. Would you like to hear about our wonderful in flight services?

Re:nice job (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#47495321)

Aside from all that, it isn't clear why adding a shallow emulation of a talking human head is even going to improve the terminal experience:

If you are dealing with a routine matter, you aren't really trying to convey that much data (and none of the data you are trying to convey are subtly emotionally nuanced or anything, it's basically an "I want to be on this flight, ideally in this seat, here's the billing info" operation, not a sonnet) and existing text and graphic based interfaces, while often questionably thought out, are at least as competent as a natural-language dialog for anyone who isn't illiterate or otherwise handicapped.

If something or someone is fucked up and/or deeply confused, the computer won't be able to help you because it will just format and present the garbage you are trying to sort out. You need someone who can understand an edge case or error and has the power to give a good hard shove to whatever fields aren't cooperating.

I'd bet nontrivial money that the effect of this 'advance' will be to make the experience worse: The licensing fees will be calibrated to be lower than human salaries; but the underlying system will still be far dumber and less flexible than the humans who it will replace (because why do we need so many desk staff now that our kiosks are so user friendly!?); so users whose problems were already solved will have, at best, a slightly more pleasant interaction, and the users with real problems will have to wait in a longer line for a more harried human to fix it.

We all know how totally peachy-keen 'interactive voice recognition' systems have made interacting with call centers, and this is basically the same old shit with an animated face.

Re:nice job (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 5 months ago | (#47499631)

Or, in programmer terms: who here would spend his time trying to optimize code that takes 5% of the processing time instead of working on the other 95%?

alphatel is a moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47500085)

> Yes we all want interactive terminals at the airport. We are not at all concerned about waiting 1 hour to checks bags, another hour to get through security and a third useful hour spent waiting to board. No, let's get hyper-aggressive about how the computer looks at the airport.

You UTTER moron. Why do you think people wait 1hr to check in bags? Come on, I'll wait for you to answer.

Why do you think people wait 1hr to go through security? Come on... waiting.

Why waiting to board? You arrived early?

Moron. The whole reason people take a lot of time to go through these human systems is price competition. People want cheaper tickets and the rows an rows of check-ins staffed with people to reduce the time taken costs money. If there was one check-in person and one security person per traveler at any one time, things would be quicker, sure, but more expensive.

How can you not decipher that?

So then you say you want things quicker, and decry the very FUCKING PROJECT that people are engineering to make it that way.

Airlines are run by morons, the booking systems written, designed and implemented by morons. The farce of getting to where we are now (book ticket, passbook, minimum fuss) is not something I am going to forget. AND IT IS PEOPLE LIKE YOU, i.e. MORONS, that made it such.

Because the systems were shit people had a hard time using self-checkin, or they were too expensive for the budget airlines etc. While I agree it would be better to have minimum cost, maximum usability system that let any idiot check in onboard, I am sure there are studies that show that people are so paralyzed by their own stupidity that we need to coddle them with avatars and other shit so they can make their way through a fucking airport.

Now STOP BEING A FUCKING MORON.

> WHAT'S THAT? THEY'RE DEVELOPING SOMETHING CALLED AN UMBRELLA? WTF PEOPLE WANT NOT GET WET IN THE RAIN NOT HAVE YET ANOTHER THING TO CARRY AROUND!

Moron

Re:nice job (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 5 months ago | (#47500455)

You might not, and I'd wager that most people would SAY they wouldn't care about a face, but I could also believe that it could actually improve customer relations.

Kind of like advertising that seems silly. I see an ad for coke and I think "That's stupid, I'm not going to order a coke simply because I saw a pretty woman on a billboard drinking a coke." Yet I'm told it does actually have an effect without you realizing it. People aren't completely rational.

Of course, I'm not confident this guy or the airlines have actually studied whether this will actually reduce people's stresses with check-in, I'm guessing they just made a hypothesis and liked it because it promised a quick, cheap fix to their problems rather than, I dunno, stop hiring idiots at the checkout counters and to hire more of them.

Re:nice job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47500549)

That concludes my bi-annual trip to slashdot. Fucking story linked from reddit, come here, first comment I read is bollocks.

See you dumb fucks in another six months.

There's something touching about that comment (4, Insightful)

astralagos (740055) | about 5 months ago | (#47494547)

"One of the comments levelled at self-service check in is that it has lost the human touch..." the solution of hiring more people will, of course, not be considered.

Re:There's something touching about that comment (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 5 months ago | (#47494781)

the solution of hiring more people will, of course, not be considered.

Nor should it be. The number of people that really care about a check-in terminal having a "human touch" is probably about 2%. The number willing to pay extra to have their ticket issued by a human is likely closer to 0%. Any airline hiring extra humans to deal with this will just lose business to their lower cost competitors.

Re:There's something touching about that comment (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 5 months ago | (#47494815)

Right.

It's profit-driven androids, all the way down.

Re:There's something touching about that comment (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494971)

While you are correct, we can go further and state that any airlines spending money on "automated, intelligent avatars" will lose out to the cheaper, impersonal terminals we have now for collecting our boarding pass. There is nothing wrong with them anyway. The problems are all those caused by queuing due to interminable security processes - and of course nobody wants to pay more to alleviate that either.

Re:There's something touching about that comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47495775)

Yeah, let's just keep eliminating jobs all the time every single last place we can. How about we start with yours?

The only problem with dealing with humans for checking in has been an insufficient quantity of them. As to this idiotic notion of "paying extra", you seem to assume that businesses pass cost savings onto customers. Here's a hint: they don't. If somebody charges $600 for a plane ticket and they figure out a way to reduce the cost by $50, they're going to charge....$600 for a plane ticket until something makes them do otherwise and that something is NOT voluntarily cutting into their bottom line. Normally we call that thing "competition" except that with all the mergers that have been all the rage lately we don't really have that anymore. It's one of those quaint concepts of our society that we like to pretend exists, kind of like freedom and liberty but I digress...

I prefer a human at the check in counter. The reason I go to the kiosks almost all the time is that the humans are almost always busy and overworked with people who have issues that need addressing, and of course there are not enough of them because employers are cheap bastards who want all kinds of customers with all kinds of disposable incomes but who are loathe to actually participate in creating any of the disposable income out there themselves.

Some MBA fool in marketing sitting there watching this might conclude from this behavior that I prefer kiosks. They would be wrong. Kiosks are great for when everything goes right. Whenever anything goes wrong, forget it.

Re:There's something touching about that comment (1)

jopsen (885607) | about 5 months ago | (#47496203)

True... if only they could make computers that we're slow and stupid touch screens you can't type on...
Anyways, if you're late or there is some complication... Humans are nice...

Re:There's something touching about that comment (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 5 months ago | (#47498805)

the solution of hiring more people will, of course, not be considered.

Nor should it be. The number of people that really care about a check-in terminal having a "human touch" is probably about 2%. The number willing to pay extra to have their ticket issued by a human is likely closer to 0%. Any airline hiring extra humans to deal with this will just lose business to their lower cost competitors.

Ultimately this.

A lot of the stress at the airport is self inflicted because people don't want to pay for things. They don't want to pay baggage so they lug an oversized case everywhere. In the US it has been a race to the bottom and it's been so bad that you don't have any airlines left that an Australian, Asian or European would consider to be "full service".

Let me be clear that I certainly don't blame individuals for the TSA cluster fuck, but beyond that it's down to cheap people being too cheap for their own good.

I just flew Singapore Airlines from Perth to Manila transiting through Singapore. Singapore is a great airline to fly on, 30 KG baggage in cattle class, 19" seats on their Airbuses, the cabin crew bring around hot towels before take off, a choice of meal in economy, decent tea and a good in-flight entertainment system. Beyond this, Changi International Airport in Singapore is a very easy place to get around. Free wifi that works, lots of signs, trains that run between the terminals every 4 minutes airside, plenty of free activities and lots of sitting areas.

The cost of this was A$200 above flying a budget airline like deathstar (JetStar) and for them I'd have to transit though Darwin (which meant collecting and re-checking my bags at Darwin). When you're in the air for 18 hours all up, its a small price to pay for a little extra comfort.

Re:There's something touching about that comment (2)

hey! (33014) | about 5 months ago | (#47500515)

It's not the human *touch* that people crave in a complicated interaction with a system. It's human *versatility*.

Thus more personnel does no good, if those personnel are rigidly controlled, lack information to advise or authority to act. The fact that they're also expected to be jolly and upbeat as they follow their rigid and unyielding rules only turns the interaction with them into a travesty of a social interaction.

What would work better is a well-designed check-in system that handles routine situations nearly all the time, along with a few personnel who have the training and authority to solve any passenger problems that come up.

Re: There's something touching about that comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494793)

I am a connoisseur of airline travel, posting from O'Hare, and until i get status on an airline I mostly wish the agents were replaced with a computer. Preferably an attractive computer who flirts. And I would sincerely hope that the gorgeous computer can complete my check in so that her 1 month on the job counterpart who is engaged in nasty flirting with the bag boy doesn't have to take over.

Re:There's something touching about that comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494825)

"One of the comments levelled at self-service check in is that it has lost the human touch..." the solution of hiring more people will, of course, not be considered.

Irrelevant because these consultants are trying to avoid telling the airline CEOs what "the human touch" comments really mean:
1) the check-in computer can't be bullied with DYKWIA rants from self-important douches
2) the check-in computer can't be sweet-talked into abusing airline policy for the benefit of folks they see all the time (e.g. except where due to weather, United charges a $75 ticket change fee to catch an earlier flight and someone who commutes the same route weekly can get a human to creatively interpret whether weather status is in-play just because the human has learned to recognize them)
3) the check-in computer will never compassionately interpret airline policy to help folks who been screwed over by events earlier in their trip

Re:There's something touching about that comment (1)

cptdondo (59460) | about 5 months ago | (#47495815)

In other words, except for the douche, good customer service.

I fly a regular route with American from a small airport; if I get the usual counter staff I don't get charged luggage fee. Giving up $25 to make a guy who drops $2k - $10K on airfare every month moderately happy is probably not a bad idea. (And no, I have not reached the exalted flyer status, as my flying is spread over many airlines.)

Re:There's something touching about that comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47497605)

Someone who commutes the same route weekly would qualify for frequent flier status and be able to change to an earlier flight for free on United.

Re:There's something touching about that comment (2)

roman_mir (125474) | about 5 months ago | (#47495071)

But you will get all the claims that minimum wage laws, labour laws, inflation (money printing) and basically rising prices somehow increase economic activity rather than putting more pressure on business to automate (use capital where labour was used initially).

Re:There's something touching about that comment (1)

mattwarden (699984) | about 5 months ago | (#47495319)

That's because consumers do not want to pay for more people just so they can have 'human touch' during check-in. In fact, I personally actively avoid talking to humans for processes that can easily be performed by myself. Why do I need a person who may or may not have a high school diploma click some buttons that I can click myself? Only about 5% of cases require a human to deal with an exception to the basic check-in process, which means you only need 5% of the staff.

Re:There's something touching about that comment (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 5 months ago | (#47500491)

Another thing not considered: that the person who provided that comment was a complete idiot.

"Hi sir, you just checked into your flight, which is totally fun, would you like to continue the thrill by standing around for a few minutes longer and taking a survey about your experience? Yes? GREAT! If you could stop drooling for a minute, tell us how we can improve your experience? You like to look at human faces? Oh, you said 'feces'? I'll just write down faces, how about that?"

Well, it could be worse,. . . (1)

cashman73 (855518) | about 5 months ago | (#47494557)

I mean, at least they didn't ink a deal with the guys in charge of the Fifth Element. We would all be required to carry a MULTI-PASS!

Re:Well, it could be worse,. . . (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 5 months ago | (#47495537)

I mean, at least they didn't ink a deal with the guys in charge of the Fifth Element. We would all be required to carry a MULTI-PASS!

That's "Mul-Ti-Pass" and, yes, they know it's a Multipass.

[ One of my favorite movies BTW. Anyone know if it's a significantly better experience on Bluray than on DVD (or even Superbit DVD)? ]

even more cute eyecons (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494563)

overlooking the spiritual bankruptcy proceedings http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=wmd+weather+nazi+zion+genocides swollen heads no heart scenario

"I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that." (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494569)

That human touch we know and love so well.

Personally I'd buy stock in AI kiosk screen repair servicing companies.

Re:"I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that." (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 months ago | (#47495379)

This is an airport we are talking about: the kiosk AIs have more rights than the passengers interacting with them. Rates of assault will likely be low.

Can we replace (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494585)

the meat sacks in the TSA with these things?

Sigh. (4, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | about 5 months ago | (#47494611)

"One of the comments levelled at self-service check in is that it has lost the human touch that people had when checking in at a traditional manned counter,"

So we're going to take away the last humans and replace them with mindless robots.

Well done.

Certainly aced that one.

(As an aside, I've just come through London Stansted including an extra hour in the security queues which went all the way back to the gate when you come off the plane, and I spent much of it yelling and attracting the attention of people around me - my primary beef was that the humans had no humanity, nobody had bothered to go down the line, tell us what we were waiting for, how long it was expected to take, what they could do for special cases - young children, disabled passengers, elderly passengers unable to stand in queue, etc. - or would even bother to do anything to help or give answers.

And when we got to the front, all the "electronic passport" aisles were gone and only the manned aisles were left. I know why they were removed - nobody uses them. They are too much a faff, you can't take children through them, if you're travelling with someone with a non-chipped passport, you have to separate and then wait (hope) blindly for each other on the other side, etc. so even when they were opened, less than 1% of the people there ever used them.

Sorry, if you want the human touch, you have to put humans in there AND then listen to the humans queuing alongside them AND then let those humans sort each other's problems out. Reliance on machines? When I got to the long-stay car park to retrieve my car, it wouldn't let my (immaculately preserved) ticket through two different barriers, so I had to press the button and get someone to let me out, costing me another 10 minutes. Thank god that wasn't my passport at the end of a hour-long queue.

Re:Sigh. (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about 5 months ago | (#47494715)

"One of the comments levelled at self-service check in is that it has lost the human touch that people had when checking in at a traditional manned counter,"

So we're going to take away the last humans and replace them with mindless robots.

It's a self-service check-in, it's already a mindless robot.

Though I fail to see how replacing the dumb kiosk with a more intelligent avatar will really make anything better, I don't really want the kiosk to ask me how my day is going, or tell me I better bundle up because it's going to be a cold day in Chicago, I just want to check in as quickly and easily as possible.

Re:Sigh. (5, Interesting)

unrtst (777550) | about 5 months ago | (#47495011)

It's a self-service check-in, it's already a mindless robot.

Though I fail to see how replacing the dumb kiosk with a more intelligent avatar will really make anything better, I don't really want the kiosk to ask me how my day is going, or tell me I better bundle up because it's going to be a cold day in Chicago, I just want to check in as quickly and easily as possible.

This.

Using some supposedly intelligent avatar instead of a clear, simple, and well designed UI ranks right up there with the automated call interfaces that ask you to speak your answers instead of pressing the number buttons on your phone. People complained because pushing numbers sucked; RCA was incorrect; we ended up with a system 10x's as frustrating that takes 3x's longer to operate.

I've found the self-service check-in's to be rather good, but the physical integration of them has left a lot to be desired. IE. there is no line for them.. there's just a bunch of them scattered about. Then you still have to take your bags somewhere, and figuring out where that line is, and how it differs from the line that includes getting your ticket, is often a complete mess. You often have to wade back through all the folks wandering around the kiosks to find the front of the new line. It should be a LOT simpler and organized much better... though I'm sure this is a per-airport, and possibly per-airline, issue, so YMMV.

Re:Sigh. (2)

chad_r (79875) | about 5 months ago | (#47496209)

That sums up my impression of the state of airports that have adopted the machines wholesale. The machines are just scattered around, and there is no clear "line" to either check your bags or speak to a human. You just need to trace the ropes to find a gap, and hope that the line you started is the place where the lone counter person is looking for the next person to serve. If it's especially busy, there may be two people at the counter, but anyone else on staff will be wandering around to help people with machines (basically just pushing the buttons for them) or actively discouraging people from waiting on line instead of starting with the machines.

But the machines aren't flawless. I've never been able to get through the check-in for an international flight with an entire family. I make it through the initial steps of identifying myself and the flight, but when it comes to scanning the passports it will randomly reject one of them. It's likely because one of the family has a foreign passport. If that's the issue, why can't they just tell those cases to go directly to the counter? Three attempts at this is 10 minutes wasted (including for the staff watching over my shoulder telling me to try it again) that I could have spent waiting in line.

The problem isn't with the software, it's with a lack of care for the customer experience. It's as if the airline management never use an airport to realize ways in which the system is inefficient, confusing, or unpleasant. That's what think is the real reason for designing an avatar kiosk: throw money at software developers to magically solve the problem instead of understanding or addressing the real issues.

Re:Sigh. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47496493)

Using some supposedly intelligent avatar instead of a clear, simple, and well designed UI ranks right up there with the automated call interfaces that ask you to speak your answers instead of pressing the number buttons on your phone. People complained because pushing numbers sucked; RCA was incorrect; we ended up with a system 10x's as frustrating that takes 3x's longer to operate.

This times a thousand.

Good UI: Discreetly push buttons on phone, zero chance of a DTMF tone being misinterpreted.
Bad UX: Telling my CC and the last four digits of my SSN to everybody within a three-cubicle radius.

I've found the self-service check-in's to be rather good, but the physical integration of them has left a lot to be desired. IE. there is no line for them.. there's just a bunch of them scattered about.

It's per-airport, but I think the distribution is a feature, not a bug. I don't have to wander aimlessly to find my specific airline's counter and stand in line with a dozen humans for the three meat-based kiosks. I just look for the nearest empty robot kiosk that happens to be showing my airline's logo amongst a dozen other airline logos. (Although my typical use case is somewhat different; I rarely checked luggage even before 9/11, so I never had to find the line for check-in of luggage.)

Re:Sigh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494885)

you could repeat that for International Arrivals (non US or BA flight) at JFK in Winter.
You could repeat that experience for most US so called 'International' airports in the US.
Serves you right for using the piss-hole that is Stanstead at a peak holiday time.

I do 20-30 long haul flights a year and refise to use Stanstead, Luton or Gatwick because of the crappy experience.
London City is a real pleasure especially as it is less than 5km from where I live.

Re:Sigh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47495123)

The train had probably broken. It's a single point of failure at Stansted with no backup it would appear.
Having used the e-passport several times I can say it works for me - Stansted is famous for it not working though.
BTW- been through nearby Luton recently seems their passport check area has been completely re-done and works great now.

Re:Sigh. (1)

mattwarden (699984) | about 5 months ago | (#47495335)

Sigh all you want. If people like you were willing to pay extra for the human touch, then there would be two tiers of tickets offered by airlines: self-checkin and human check-in. Human check-in would of course be an extra $100 or so. Still interested?

To underscore this even more, every airline I know (US) has a choice between kiosk and human. The human check-in has no incremental monetary cost. You just have to wait in a significant line. Very few people choose to pay this tiny cost just to have a person click a few buttons for them. The only time they wait in line is when the kiosk can't handle their case.

So, yes, lament the loss of the human touch and the replacement with mindless robots. This is how an economy advances. Buggy drivers had to lose their jobs, too.

Re:Sigh. (1)

kaatochacha (651922) | about 5 months ago | (#47495489)

I'm becoming less and less of a fan of the "buggy whip" example. Mainly because we currently feel it's so easy and simple to point and laugh at those archaic, buggy whip makers.
The concept changes drastically when you realize how much of the middle class has/will be gutted by automation, and now it's not just buggy whip guys losing their job, it's YOU. In the position you thought was too intelligent and necessary, you're suddenly automated out of existence and somebody else is making jokes about whatever it is you do being eliminated, times are tough, suck it up.
Society needs to figure out a way to deal with this before it becomes rioting, heads on poles serious.

Re:Sigh. (1)

mattwarden (699984) | about 5 months ago | (#47495539)

It's well-known representative example and is not meant to be the best example.

Your premise is pretty egocentric, though. We are living through a relatively quiet period with new innovation, compared to the industrial revolution and the 1990s. If the social order didn't collapse then, I'm pretty sure we'll be fine.

But if you want to slow down even more the automation of jobs currently filled with humans, then stop adding to the price of employing humans while the price of buying automation falls. That means: no min wage increases, no Affordable Care Act, no payroll tax increases, no gas tax increases, no new family leave benefits, no new mandated paid sick leave, etc.

I won't hold my breath. Most people who sigh over automating away human jobs are the same people accelerating the process through idiotic policy prescriptions.

Re:Sigh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47496531)

What do you suggest we do with all the people when everything has been automated? obviously they cant spend any money because they either cant get a job or they are paid a pity in wages (and who is going to keep all these amazing automated systems with a reason to keep running if not consumers?)

Re:Sigh. (1)

mattwarden (699984) | about 5 months ago | (#47496555)

Your scenario is no possible. What happens is that there will be a sub-optimal balance between automation and jobs, and the cause of this will be idiot voters using government for things that does not make sense.

Re:Sigh. (1)

Cederic (9623) | about 5 months ago | (#47495597)

Society needs to figure it out, but that doesn't mean halting progress, it doesn't mean returning to a subsistence lifestyle and it doesn't meant that the middle classes are some important protected group that we dare not touch.

Fuck 'em, adapt or die.

Re:Sigh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47495799)

Fuck'em, adapt or die

Fuck you and everybody who thinks like you.

Re:Sigh. (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 5 months ago | (#47496087)

Sigh all you want. If people like you were willing to pay extra for the human touch, then there would be two tiers of tickets offered by airlines: self-checkin and human check-in. Human check-in would of course be an extra $100 or so. Still interested?

Yes, it's called 'Business Class'. I walk straight up to the checkin counter, hand over my bags, and they do the rest, so I don't have to worry about what passport I'm supposed to use this time, or whatever other nonsense has changed since I last flew.

Re:Sigh. (1)

mattwarden (699984) | about 5 months ago | (#47496541)

Oh, right. I forgot that the main reason people buy biz class tickets is so they can check in with a human and not have a line.

Re:Sigh. (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 5 months ago | (#47498819)

And when we got to the front, all the "electronic passport" aisles were gone and only the manned aisles were left. I know why they were removed - nobody uses them. They are too much a faff,

I use the electronic "smart gates" in Australia all the time, I've never had an issue with them. They get used a lot but there's never a long like at them because they're faster than a manned counter.

My biggest fear is another overzealous customs officer in another country doesn't do what one Malaysian one did and stamp the centre page that has the chip in it and the words "Do Not Stamp This Page" in bold lettering on it. Getting another passport is a bitch.

uncanny valley (1)

magarity (164372) | about 5 months ago | (#47494621)

I suppose he's never heard of the uncanny valley affect. This sounds like a great way to RAISE stress, not lower it.

The human touch (3, Interesting)

overshoot (39700) | about 5 months ago | (#47494647)

Thanks to a prosthetic knee, I get the "human touch" every time I fly. That's after a trip through the pornscanner and taking out all of my electronics and startingt them up, of course.

As for the kiosks -- if you know what you're doing, the last thing that you need is the kind of condescending "help" that gets in the way of getting your freaking boarding pass.

Re:The human touch (1)

mattwarden (699984) | about 5 months ago | (#47495339)

> if you know what you're doing, the last thing that you need is the kind of condescending "help" that gets in the way of getting your freaking boarding pass.

Bingo! People have the choice to check in with a human now. They use the kiosk. Why do I need someone to press a couple buttons for me?

Help Wanted (1)

koan (80826) | about 5 months ago | (#47494675)

Humans need not apply.

SOlution looking for a problem (3, Insightful)

sinij (911942) | about 5 months ago | (#47494677)

Lining up to get sexually assaulted, lining up to pay predatory fees, and then suffering many hours on a dirty plane in sardines-in-a-box seating plan are main concerns.

If the problems above solved, I would gladly register using CLI, if necessary.

Re:SOlution looking for a problem (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 5 months ago | (#47495863)

Vote with your feet and if necessary your wallet.

I always fly with JAL now because their economy class gives you 10cm extra leg room. It doesn't sound like much but it makes a massive difference. They have plenty of staff to do check-in and let you take an extra hold bag over what most of the competition offer. They charge the same or only slightly more (£20-30 on a flight costing £850).

Don't put up with shitty service for the sake of a few bucks or shopping around.

Ugh talking kiosks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494707)

It should be a requirement that any machine which has the ability to talk should also be able to understand & comply with the audible command "shut the hell up you poorly-scripted shitbox!"

Re:Ugh talking kiosks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494821)

You can complain about it to the Johnny cab that drives you awy from the airport.

The last airbender? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494713)

With Aang and Katar? Or James Cameron? Oh, not that kind of Avatar. :p

A welcome innovation (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 5 months ago | (#47494735)

create live, naturally intelligent, and expressive interactive systems

That'll be a first!

AI just isn't up to it yet, (3, Insightful)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | about 5 months ago | (#47494813)

Natural communication? In a crowded airport with a machine? Pull the other one, it squeaks.

Artificial intelligence is nowhere near good enough to translate "I want an isle seat for my son and TIMMY STOP POKING YOUR SISTER, sorry, An isle seat for my son and I have a Delta flight from Dallas, can you make sure it will arrive in time to connect?" That's the kind of thing human attendants can cope with easily. The best kind of interface for ticketing is an unintelligent wizard on a touch screen with big icons and a "help" button for an attendant.

Who cares about the "human touch"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494833)

I don't give a damn about that. Please invest in much faster planes instead - I do care about being in that miserable sardin can for hours on end. By the way, those "breaktroughs" consisting of higher humidity and air pressure in the cabin, plus slightly larger windows - you know where you can stick them. Give us much faster flights at a reasonable price; the rest is just cosmetics.

Re:Who cares about the "human touch"? (1)

kaatochacha (651922) | about 5 months ago | (#47495505)

They did. It was the Concorde. Fast, uncomfortable, loug and expensive.

lost the human touch? (3, Insightful)

shadowrat (1069614) | about 5 months ago | (#47494889)

The human is the weak link in the check in chain. The self check in terminals are fine, but fat lot of good it does when i still have to stand in a huge line just to have the human behind the desk put a sticker on my checked baggage. WTF is that about? weighing? certainly a scale could be present at the terminal, and until computer vision is reliable enough, a human could simply watch to make sure people arent just pretending to weigh their 80lbs luggage. Bombs? i thought that's what the TSA is for. Clearly the staff checking your ID is not the biggest stopgap in preventing bombs on board. Why can't the terminal simply spit out my baggage sticker for myself to put on?

Re:lost the human touch? (1)

Nkwe (604125) | about 5 months ago | (#47495083)

The self check in terminals are fine, but fat lot of good it does when i still have to stand in a huge line just to have the human behind the desk put a sticker on my checked baggage. WTF is that about? ... Why can't the terminal simply spit out my baggage sticker for myself to put on?

It may be about putting the sticker on correctly. If the sticker isn't put on correctly (positioned so automated scanners can read the bar codes and securely attached so it won't fall off), the bag may not make it to the destination in a timely fashion. Granted that putting on the sticker isn't hard, but some people have difficulty with seeming simple things. In addition, having an airline employee attach the sticker before the luggage is accepted allows for a human check to ensure things like: the bag is within dimensional limits, the bag isn't already damaged, the bag is in fact "approved" luggage that is sturdy enough to withstand air travel, etc.

Re:lost the human touch? (1)

TBoon (1381891) | about 5 months ago | (#47495273)

Why can't the terminal simply spit out my baggage sticker for myself to put on?

It may be about putting the sticker on correctly. [...] allows for a human check to ensure things like: the bag is within dimensional limits, the bag isn't already damaged, [...]

Most (if not all) airports in Norway have had the machines print out luggage tags for you to put on yourself for years now. Some have self-service bag-drops where you scan the luggage tag (and iirc fingerprint) and be on your way. I'm sure the machine would refuse overweight luggage, and there is usually a person nearby keeping an eye on everything.

Of course, if traveling to the US (and probably a number of other destinations as well), you're required to interact with a manned counter at some point.

Re:lost the human touch? (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 5 months ago | (#47496753)

That's why the removed the automated baggage drop of counters again from the largest airport over here.

Re:lost the human touch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47495715)

> If the sticker isn't put on correctly

I haven't see an airline employee put a sticker on in at least a year. Now, they throw the sticker at your face and make you put it on your luggage, or they refuse to take your luggage. It's more awkward than it looks to get the long sticker through your suitcase handle then get it aligned both length and side to side then get it to stick. The old airline employees, before many of them were made homeless by being fired for being competent but too expensive, made it look so easy. Now, you have long lines at USian airports because the airlines refuse to put the stickers on. Now you have to wait for the passengers to clumsily do it themselves.

Even more annoying is the way the airline employees are instructed to get pissed off and raise their voices at anyone holding up the line, but they are also ordered to do nothing to help make things move fast. About a month ago I saw a flight attendant scream at an older woman that couldn't get her suitcase in the overhead compartment. She spent ten times as long bitching about the woman and then making sarcastic comments to the people already seated near than it would have taken to simply help the woman. In five of my last six cross-country flights, I didn't even get a snack. This was on Delta. Airlines hate us, and they intentionally hire employees that will very publicly shame us. That is their way.

Re:lost the human touch? (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 5 months ago | (#47498667)

You're right. There's absolutely no need for humans at the baggage drop, except perhaps one person offering assistance if people have problems.

Flew from Gatwick to Tromsà with Norweigian in December. It was fantastic! Self check-in machine printed off a sticker for my luggage. Placed it in an automated bag drop, and the only queueing I had to do was at the security theatre.

KLM has something similar. BA at Heathrow still has manned desks but the kiosks print out the sticker so it is just a case of dropping the bags/

Do not want (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 5 months ago | (#47494899)

Great. This is going to be like trying to talk to one of those software customer service reps on the phone: insanely inefficient. [youtu.be] As long as there is nothing unusual about your checkin, existing kiosks work great. If there is something unusual, the fake human won't be able to handle it any better than a standard interface will, and you'll need a real human.

This is for non-readers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494923)

This is solely for the user of the illiterate who cannot use the check-in kiosks. I like that I can quickly read the screen, tap the appropriate button, and be on my way. Checking in will take a lot longer if I have to listen to a computer avatar ask me my questions.

Re:This is for non-readers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47494969)

And "user of the illiterate"? Turns out I'm one of them I guess.

Re:This is for non-readers (1)

qbast (1265706) | about 5 months ago | (#47494995)

... and failing to recognize answer half of the time, because 'natural' look fooled you into using natural language instead of narrow set of keywords.

Flight to Uncanny Valley departing from terminal 1 (2)

abies (607076) | about 5 months ago | (#47494951)

I think that going through tree of discrete selections has a better solution in touchscreen than in glorified answer-phone system with space-wasting avatar visualisation.
Maybe they could prototype it first by putting terminals videoconferencing to live people which could not fully understand what you are telling them (certain offshore locations come into mind) and see how much it improves the passenger checkin quality. If it works perfectly, THEN they can solve problem of video lines by generating almost-human computer avatars. I have a feeling that people will prefer impersonal selections to videoconference...

Rigidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47495091)

When you replace people with computers you get a rigid and brittle process. That's OK if nothing ever goes wrong because no one will end up on the wrong side of that rigidity. But when there is opportunity for the process to go wrong then there absolutely must be fast and easy access to a skilled, experienced and empowered human for exception handling. We don't need fake rigid humans, we need real people who are capable of making good, customer-centric decisions.

Making the computer more pretty won't help, and just having a low-wage minder standing around won't help either.

Recent experience (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 5 months ago | (#47495093)

A few minutes waiting for a kiosk to be available, couple of more minutes tapping the screen. Had the boarding pass and baggage claim ticket in hand. Then waited at least 15 minutes for a person to wander by and take the bag I had checked (for a $25 surcharge). Maybe the avatar will recognize the annoyance building and ping someone to come over.

Clippy for checkin terminals? (3, Insightful)

Stewie241 (1035724) | about 5 months ago | (#47495185)

So is this basically clippy for checkin terminals?

Re:Clippy for checkin terminals? (1)

aberglas (991072) | about 5 months ago | (#47497071)

I'm looking forward to Genuine People Personalities, particularly Marvin.

multipass (1)

Chad Smith (3448823) | about 5 months ago | (#47495231)

korben dallas multipass

what's the min wage of an avatar? (1)

mattwarden (699984) | about 5 months ago | (#47495299)

Please explain technologies like this to these clowns: http://politics.slashdot.org/s... [slashdot.org]

TYFSOK (2)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 5 months ago | (#47495311)

"Travelling can be stressful and our aim is to make the interaction between human (passenger) and computer (check-in) as natural and helpful as possible."

Remember those stickers on the registers at K-Mart, facing the cashier, with the letters, "TYFSOK"? It stands for, "Thank You For Shopping Our K-Mart." The sticker was to remind the beleagured minimum wage employee to recite the words. Did anyone, ever, feel that the person mechanically parroting that catch phrase actually cared? How about the greeters at Wal Mart? (I think they've pretty much gone away, like the TYFSOK stickers)

You can teach an automaton to mimick human emotion, but even when it is an actual human such mimickry is patronizing and irritating. If you want human warmth, hire warm humans (downside; warm humans who can keep their positive mental attitude while working at an airport are expensive and they need time to recover from their shifts).

If you are going to use computers, embrace their natural advantages. Computers are fast, predictable, and emotionless. Those can be good characteristics in a user interface -- particularly when the customer just wants to get the process finished and move on. Work with the entire industry to develop a standard interface and sequence so the user and bang through it without even engaging their brain -- everyone is better off with travellers on autopilot. Painting a computer in whore's makeup won't make it a lover for any but the most desperate.

And, for you air travellers, a quick question: Why are you still endorsing them? Why are you still agreeing to be subjected to the TSA and the awful customer service of the airlines? Have you really made all reasonable efforts to switch to alternatives? If you aren't making significant personal sacrifices to cut their cashflow, you are lending aid and comfort to the enemy. I've driven 6,000 miles in the past year avoiding air travel. What are you doing?

Re:TYFSOK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47499565)

When travelling from the UK to Chile... Flying is pretty much the only sensible option for me right now.
I pretty much hate the entire experience but there are not better alternatives for when you NEED to travel to some places.

When travelling in and around the UK I would never fly if I can avoid it as the entire experience has become pretty inconvenient.

Re:TYFSOK (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 5 months ago | (#47499613)

When travelling from the UK to Chile... Flying is pretty much the only sensible option for me right now.
I pretty much hate the entire experience but there are not better alternatives for when you NEED to travel to some places.

When travelling in and around the UK I would never fly if I can avoid it as the entire experience has become pretty inconvenient.

Excellent -- it sounds like you are making all reasonable efforts to cut their cashflow.

First - why do we need checkin (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 5 months ago | (#47495361)

I check in online. When I get to the airport, why can't I just swipe my passport drop my bags on the conveyor and go on my way. Sometimes that works, but at least half the time while someone types the Oxford English Dictionary into a keyboard. I'm not changing flights. I'm doing exactly what my reservation, and online checkin said I was doing.

I don't want a human touch, I just want to get on my airplane.

On the occasions where I am doing something unusual, or where something goes wrong, an AI avatar is NOT going to be able to solve my problem.

Creepy (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 5 months ago | (#47495557)

Expect human reaction to computers pretending to be human to be angry and creped out.

When you do this you are essentially selling a lie to the customer even though it is clear machine is a machine and not a person the emulation of a person is still perceived as deception and therefore offensive.

If airlines feel compelled to waste their money on something other than reasonably usable kiosk terminals why not invest it to reverse multi-decades trend of making experience of flying as lame, oppressive and uncomfortable as possible?

That will be 18 credits please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47495659)

"Sue me, d**khead!"

*Johnny Clerk electrocutes airline passenger*

"We hope you enjoyed the ride!"

no thanks (2)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 5 months ago | (#47495719)

I don't fly anymore, because I don't enjoy voluntary root canals, but ...

I went through an automated car wash recently, and instead of pushing a few buttons and swiping my card, I got to listen to a video of a cheerful smiling woman in a car (with her adorable "daughter" beside her!) explaining each step in painful marketese ... every time I did anything, she started over, talking (obliquely, tediously) about the new step I was on ... by the time I could actually drive into the car wash I was ready to rip out the screen and beat myself over the head with it.

If you are going to automate, then at least make it quick and efficient. If you want the human touch, use actual humans. (Well, just not that actual human, please.)

Human touch? (2)

PPH (736903) | about 5 months ago | (#47495727)

Check in kiosks are fine the way they are. If you want a human touch, just wait for the TSA security line. Of course, it will involve a Latex glove.

Really? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 5 months ago | (#47496215)

Just when you think that customer service can't possibly get any more creepy, then you read this.

"Intelligent" Avatars Poised To Manage Airline Che (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47496437)

Australian Airline Jetstar, a Qantas subsidiary, is already doing this kind of thing, although I assume not as ambitiously. Jetstar's website provides an Avatar to assist passengers with use of the airline's website, including booking flights and accommodation. The Australian provider of the avatar software has been in business for quite a few years now. The available avatars are based on well known Australians.

Personally, I *HATE* those things. (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about 5 months ago | (#47496583)

I don't mind dealing with computers. I don't mind dealing with people. I hate dealing with computers that pretend to be people. "Wait a minute while I look that up for you." (pretend typing noise) NOOOOOO thanks. If people want a more human experience, they're saying they want actual humans, not computers that pretend to be humans.

We had that before (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 5 months ago | (#47496773)

That's exactly the same line of thinking that was (obviously!) ready to be spoofed decases ago!

Adding a "human touch" to something that should be easy as opening a door or using an elevator was what led the Sirius Cybernetics cooperation to develop Genuine people personalities.

Re:We had that before (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 5 months ago | (#47499497)

Thank you. You are cleared through Voice Print Identification.

Business Speak Lessin (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 5 months ago | (#47499021)

Patrick Teo, BCS CEO says. "Travelling can be stressful and our aim is to make the interaction between human (passenger) and computer (check-in) as natural and helpful as possible."
Translation, "AIML is less than Minimum Wage."

Good work (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 5 months ago | (#47499635)

Translate that work being done on "intelligent" avatars into the real world and we'll get more "intelligent" RealDolls(tm). Fuck yeah!

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