Developments in robotics have, in more ways than one, changed the way we function. From public spheres to the comforts of our homes, AI and robotics have penetrated almost all aspects of human existence; travel is no exception. Planning and executing a getaway is a time-consuming affair, but today, some robots can help hasten many stages of the process. These devices, mostly humanoids, have also been deployed and tested at different sites, including airports, travel agencies, and hotels that make the whole process easier, faster, and seamless. Herein, Nelfair looks at the recent developments that have eased and reshaped the travel industry and the overall travel experience. 


From Jumbo, who polishes the floors in Seoul to Spencer in Amsterdam, who guides passengers through the terminal to the boarding gate, robots are becoming commonplace in airports world-over. Josie Pepper, Troika, and Robird are few other such robots active in the airports in Munich, Seoul, Canada, respectively. They are specially programmed to serve different functions such as receiving passengers, providing flight and weather information, and even preventing birds from colliding with airplanes. 


SITA’s Leo is another robot engineered to navigate busy airport environments to help passengers with check-ins and luggage transport. Additionally, airports even have robots for entertainment: Piper, Amelia, and Norma at the Mineta San Jose International Airport, for instance, play music, dance, and click pictures for the travelers. Notably, robots have been added to join the security personnel in many airports to scan for threats and detect weapons. Knightscope’s robots in New York’s LaGuardia, for example, made the news in 2018 for regularly patrolling the airport, often even scaring the people around.  


Apart from airports, hotels have also stationed robots and other AI-enabled devices at several key points to make customer service and interaction faster and more efficient. Hotels are experimenting with robots, employing them as receptionists, bellboys, cleaning staff, and more. Connie, the robot concierge at Hilton, ensures a friendly interaction for the guests, giving them food recommendations and helping them with directions. The robot butler Relay, at Westin Buffalo, on the other hand, is adept at handling room-service, delivering everything from hot towels to cocktails. Today, hotels like Main and Mountain in Vermont, are also experimenting with completely eliminating the need for front desks by enabling the guests to check-in with the help of a personalised code. 


Travel planning has also become less tedious with AI software and chatbots such as SnatchBots, which facilitate faster flight bookings and travel planning. Another exciting innovation in this respect is the Travelmate developed by Travelmate Robotics. This Bluetooth and GPS-enabled luggage is a fully-autonomous suitcase that allows for a hassle-free travel experience. Furthermore, 2020 may also witness robots that travel on behalf of humans, who in turn can experience travel through VR. Japan’s ANA envisaged the telepresence robot Newme that can be controlled from remote locations; In addition to allowing virtual travel, an invention such as Newme would even enable vital tasks like virtual medical treatment by bridging the geographical gap between people across the world. More importantly, distance would no longer be a deterrent. 


Research is underway across the world to create more such software and robots to automate many other routine processes in the travel industry. The prohibiting factor, at the moment, is the cost involved. However, the efficiency guaranteed as a result is unparalleled. Therefore, while large-scale automation in the service sector poses a threat of unemployment, one cannot deny the benefits of such developments in the long-run.  


Author: Nelfair provides reviews and product comparisons of travel gear and essentials.

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