Robbie will guide you!

Passengers arriving at Geneva can be helped to find what they want by asking a robot, which will actually then guide them.

The robot is not exactly like the one conceived by Isaac Asimov in his first robot book, written as far back as 1939 and published in 1940. It is actually a tactile screen, together with a computer and mounted on powered wheels.

As explained by the airport spokesman, Bertrand Stämpfli, on the "on en parle" morning radio programme of 19 June, it is not designed to do away with humans. It waits until anincoming passenger touches an item on the menu icons of the screen, then may actually lead the way towards the service requested. The most obvious requirement might be the nearest toilets, to which the robot will then go (neatly avoiding objects in the way, of course). Once the robot has reached the desired destination, hopefully together with the passenger, then it will head back to where it came from.

Being a rather old computer geek, I was quite impressed by the statement that both children and old people seemed to have no problem in using it.

The suggestion of Mr Stämpfli was that the same concept could also be used in the transit area, for instance to guide passengers to the various shops. This, of course, reminds us that air terminals are becoming more and more like giant shopping areas with an airport attached.

I also remember that some time ago, Mr Stämpfli had some troubles in explaining why the cost of bottles of water was excessively high inside Geneva airport. My mischievous sense of humour suggests that there could be thus one robot to help passengers empty their bladder, then another one to suggest where to buy something expensive to fill it again!


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