Starting this month, travelers at Incheon International Airport will be assisted by a non-human -- a four-foot, six-inch robot robot named Troika.
Made by LG Electronics, the self-driving robot will help travelers find their boarding gates.
Another robot, a jumbo model designed for cleaning, will help staff members mop the airport's expansive floors.
Troika has a partly rounded head with a flat touchscreen face that displays blinking or smiling eyes or relevant information like flight information, an airport map, or weather data. Travellers can insert their tickets into its scanner to get flight information, and Troika will then ask if they want to be escorted to their gates, warning laggards to "Please stay closer so I can see you."
During Troika’s debut, heads turned and children approached, curious about its white body and black screens as it glided through the terminal. They learned to their delight that the robot responds to its name.
South Korea has been slow to introduce human-like robots or interactive robots in public places like hotels or stores compared with its neighbor Japan. Incheon International Airport Corp. believes it is the first to introduce such service-oriented robots in a South Korean public space.
Another state-owned airport operator, Korea Airports Corp., which operates 15 international airports in South Korea, is planning to introduce air-purifying robots to measure air quality and clean terminals.
Incheon International Airport Corp. says the robots will not replace airport personnel, but will help workers - especially with overnight shifts and physically demanding tasks.
Future plans include deploying robots to advise travellers about items that are banned on flights, serve food in airport lounges, and carry cargo.
South Korea expects the robots to burnish its reputation as a technology leader when the country hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
Kim Hyoungrock, the research engineer at LG Electronics who oversaw the robot's development, promises that Troika will speak English, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese in time for the Olympics.
|Photo: Kanchi1979 via Wikimedia Commons|