Lufthansa passengers at Munich Airport will feel like they are stepping into the future as the airport tests its first humanoid robot information assistant.
Josie Pepper is 47 inches tall, with round sparkling eyes and a pleasant voice, and she will be wandering around Terminal 2 answering customer’s questions and offering directions.
Josie is more than just a robot: She merges artificial intelligence with human interaction, looking passengers in the eye when she talks to them, responding individually to questions and gradually learning more and more so she becomes better at developing precise replies.
Josie Pepper is the brainchild of IBM Watson and SoftBank Robotics. IBM Watson’s Internet of Things AI technologies are behind her capabilities and SoftBank Robotics developed her body, which has separate flexible joints in her hands, fingers and arms so she can gesticulate like a real human.
Humanoid robots are a common sight in Japan and some other countries, they are often present in shops welcoming customers, but this will be the first time one has being deployed in a German airport. Initially, Josie will welcome customers to the non-public area of Terminal 2, answering questions about shops, restaurants and airline operations in English. This trial period will last several weeks to show whether or not she is accepted by passengers.
Josie’s brain contains a high-performance processor with a WLAN internet connection, which creates a connection to a cloud service where speech is processed, interpreted and linked to data. Josie’s capabilities extend far beyond this simplified explanation, though. She does not just deliver pre-defined texts; like a real brain, she will steadily learn to combine different bits of relevant information with the question she is being asked to provide individual responses.
The robot was given the name Josie Pepper – inspired by the airport’s official name Franz Josef Strauss – by Munich Airport and Lufthansa staff.
A recent study from Boston Consulting claimed that robots will perform 25 percent of all labor tasks by 2025, and that transportation is one of four industries that will account for 75 percent of all robotic installations.
To see a short film of Josie Pepper in action, click here.