Paris Airport Replaces Human Boarding Agents With Holograms

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france airport hologram ticket agentTechnology has threatened many jobs with extinction in the last few years: travel agents, thanks to Expedia; translators, thanks to Google; waiters, thanks to the iPad. But positions that involve a smile, a warm greeting, and a reassuring glance are less under threat, one would think. You'd be wrong. At one French airport, your friendly boarding agent has gone virtual.

At one gate in Paris' Orly airport, you may be greeted and wished a bon voyage by a hologram, rear-projected onto human-shaped plexiglass. The pilot project currently exists only at Hall 40, which sees 30 or 40 flights a day and around 1 million passengers a year, reports The Associated Press. It's part of Orly's attempt to modernize the gate.

The audiovisual marketing company L'Oeil du Chat ("the eye of the cat") filmed three human boarding agents to create the startlingly real projections.

"Children like it, it's fun. They're attracted to it and try to play with it," Didier Leroy, the airport's director of operations, told AP. Apparently very few "find it useless or just a gizmo."

But some find it a little unnerving. There's always the risk with digital avatars that they fall into the "uncanny valley." The uncanny valley hypothesis says that when a human replica looks nothing like a human, it's funny; when it looks perfectly like a human, it's amazing; but when it looks almost, but not quite, like a human, it creeps everybody out.

"It spooks me the way his eyes seem to follow you," Cedric Olivier, an Air France pilot, told AP.

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