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Swedish robot to help guide travelers through airports

By Daniel Uria
Swedish robot to help guide travelers through airports
Starting on Monday, Nov. 30 a robot named Spencer, designed to guide travelers through airports, will be deployed for a week field testing at the Schipol International Airport in Amsterdam before its official premiere in March. Photo By LASS Laboratoire

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- A Swedish university has found a way to make navigating airports easier by creating a robot designed to guide travelers to their terminals.

Starting on Monday, Nov. 30 the robot, named Spencer, will be deployed for a week field testing at the Schipol International Airport in Amsterdam, before its official premiere in March.

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"The stately looking robot with its friendly but unstirring 'face' will be guiding passengers, unaccustomed to navigating international airports, from one gate to another," a news release from Örebro University stated.

This trial run is meant to test how well Spencer can handle the traffic and obstacles of a typical day at a busy 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," lead researcher Achim Lilienthal said.

Spencer is designed to map its surroundings using laser beams and can avoid fixed obstacles, such as walls, as well as moving objects like pedestrians. It is also designed to recognize and react to groups of people in its way and accommodate for groups it is guiding that begin to fall behind.

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One concern that the researchers have for Spencer is how it will deal with obstacles that are "temporarily permanent" such as luggage.

"It is surprisingly difficult to fit all the pieces together. A small error somewhere along the line may take an unpredictably long time to discover and work out," Lilienthal said.

If the test run is successful, the researches hope to expand Spencer's duties to include assisting passengers who have missed their flights and have an extended period before their next flight.

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