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Munich Airport, Lufthansa add AI to travel experience

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The robot technology was developed by SoftBank Robotics. Josie Pepper’s “brain” is based on Watson (IBM)

Starting today, 15 February, Munich Airport and Lufthansa will start testing the use of a humanoid robot equipped with artificial intelligence at a German airport.

Munich Airport and Lufthansa will jointly operate the pioneering project, and the “Josie Pepper” robot will welcome travellers to the non-public area of Terminal 2, providing information to passengers, such as directions to departure gates, restaurants and shops.

According to a statement released by Lufthansa, “Josie Pepper who speaks English will await passengers at the top of the ramp leading to the shuttle connecting the main terminal to the satellite building. This test phase will be used to show whether Josie Pepper is accepted by passengers.”

Asked how she is, the robot replies promptly: “I´m fine, thank you. What can I do for you?” The voice sounds a little metallic, but also somehow young and childlike

The airline explains that the robot contains a high-performance processor with a WLAN Internet access; this creates a connection to a cloud service where speech is processed, interpreted and linked to the airport data. What sets the system apart says the airline, is that “when this robot type speaks, it does not just deliver pre-defined texts. With its ability to learn, it answers each question individually. Just like a real brain, the system gets steadily better at combining questions with the relevant information to provide more precise replies.”

The France-based company, SoftBank Robotics, developed the robot, and behind its capabilities is IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) cloud-based, artificial intelligence technologies.

You can watch a demonstration of the robot’s capabilities here: www.munich-airport.com/pepper

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