Delta’s new airport technology displays personalized flight information on giant screens

Delta's new airport technology displays personalized flight information on giant screens
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Inside a terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, thousands of passengers a week find their way to the gates using technology that looks like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.

Delta Air Lines recently introduced a “Parallel Reality” system that allows travelers to access individual flight information on a shared overhead screen based on a scan of their boarding pass, or their face. The twist is that 100 people can do this at once, all using the same digital screen but only seeing their own personal data.

Unlike a normal TV or video wall, where each pixel would emit the same color of light in all directions, the board sends out different colors of light in different directions.

So what was wrong with the old system? The one where people look up at a giant screen with dozens of rows of flights, or down at a small screen on their phone?

Greg Forbes, Delta’s managing director of airport experience, said large overhead screens can be misunderstood, especially at busy airports with multiple daily flights to the same location. And phones can present a security hazard.

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“We have a real concern with people walking at full speed, looking at their phones instead of being aware of their surroundings,” he said. So the airline wanted the kind of individual messages delivered through an app, but in the form of a big screen.

“That’s where the solution came to us that we hadn’t even contemplated,” Forbes said. Delta employees came across the technology, developed by a company called Misapplied Sciences, more than three years ago. He then became associated with the startup and invested in the company.

Parallel Reality is based on display technology that allows multiple people to look at the same whiteboard simultaneously and view personalized information without using a tool like a camera or headset.

“You just look at the screens with the naked eye,” said Albert Ng, CEO of Misapplied Sciences.

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In Detroit, a superior motion sensor that tracks moving objects anonymously follows passengers after they scan their boarding pass or face to learn where to direct flight information, Ng said. Travelers must opt ​​in to Delta’s facial recognition technology to use facial scanning.

Delta’s plans for the technology were first Announced in January 2020 with plans for a release that year, but the pandemic delayed the unveiling until late last month.

While the use of facial recognition technology is not required for information boards, Delta has also added the option to β€œdigital identity technology”, in association with the Transportation Security Administration, at various airports, including Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York’s LaGuardia. The airline said passengers will eventually be able to use facial recognition at all US hubs.

Feedback on the display screens has been “excellent” so far, Forbes said. On busy days, 1,500 to 1,600 people interact with the technology. He said he expects more installations in the future so the airline can make a “more robust assessment” of future use.

“If everything goes as well as it has so far, I would expect to see it at more airports and in more places around the airport,” he said.

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