All airports are difficult to navigate, but the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam takes things to the next level. The airport is practically a labyrinth, and is so difficult to navigate that Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (KLM), a Dutch airline that’s based in Schiphol, has teamed up with researchers from the Örebro University in Sweden to create a robot that specializes in assisting lost travelers. Known as Spencer, the robot is currently being tested as a way to help travellers navigate the airport.
Robots have been streamlining our lives for decades, but they’re hardly known for their glowing customer support skills. Well, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is hoping to change all that by introducing a new AI that roams its terminals, guiding lost travellers to their correct destination. Created in partnership between students at Örebro University in Sweden and the Dutch flagship airline KLM (which is also based at Schiphol), the new robo guide – dubbed ‘Spencer’ – uses a combo of laser guidance and blueprints to navigate the famously labyrinthine terminals of the Netherlands’ main airport. “Navigating an airport is challenging, there is a lot of glass and a constantly changing environment in terms of temporary obstructions, such as parked luggage trolleys and people everywhere,” comments Achim Lilienthal, professor of computer science and project leader of Örebro University’s contribution to the research project. “Objects that are temporarily permanent so to speak, are the most difficult to work around. We do not know, for instance, how long that luggage trolley will be parked in a particular spot, which makes it harder for the robot to determine its own location. We are working on a general map representation that includes and allows the robot to handle temporarily permanent objects.”