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Meet, Pepper, Christchurch Airport’s new 120cm tall robot that can apparently recognise faces and basic human emotions, respond to requests made on the touch screen on its chest, and hold a conversation!

According to the New Zealand gateway, Pepper – who has previously been on duty at Munich Airport in Germany and Oakland in the US – likes nothing better than posing for selfies with passengers.

It joins other “disruptive technologies” being trialled at the airport, such as an Autonomous Smart Shuttle and Virtual Reality training for its fire service.

Munchen Pep

Airport chief executive, Malcolm Johns, says: “We want to understand robots to consider what they can and might do to assist us and our airport visitors.

“We are interested to see what people think and feel about interacting with a robot and what information they get and might like from it. Pepper is our first step in that direction and what I hope is the first of many robotic innovations people will see here over the next 10 to 20 years.”

At the same time, another Pepper will be put through its paces with University of Canterbury’s (UC) Human Interface Technology Lab NZ (HIT Lab NZ), in a continuation of the collaboration between the airport and the university.

“We are lending the HIT Lab a Pepper for students to understand and suggest how it could enhance our customers’ journeys,” says Christchurch Airport’s manager of digital solutions and data technology, Art Martinson.

Bar pep

“Pepper is a robot designed to interact with humans. At the moment, topics of conversation are limited, but growing all the time.”

Professor Rob Lindeman, director of HIT Lab NZ, is UC project lead for exploring Pepper’s capabilities and programming the humanoid robot to interact most effectively with visitors at the airport.

“We are very excited to bring our deep knowledge and understanding of user engagement with technology to work on this fun project,” he says.

“It’s great to have such a forward-looking neighbour as Christchurch Airport willing to embrace new technologies, and really explore how we can transform public understanding and acceptance of technology such as robots.”

From today, Pepper is living and learning in the Digital Innovation Zone on the first floor of the airport terminal, opposite South bar, for a few hours each Monday to Friday.

Johns adds: “Our visitors will get a pleasant surprise at the response and we hope they share their photos and videos with friends and family all over the world.”


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