"I'm so versatile, I can be used for just about anything," the woman said in a sugary voice, changing her shirt. "I can say what you want, dress the way you want and be just about anything you want me to be!" Meet the new holographic customer service rep that will be tested in three New York City area airports.
Each lifesized holographic lady appears on a flatscreen cutout and works with sensors that detect someone speaking to it. Then she begins dispensing information about flights, shuttle buses and taxis. Each slender brunette avatar costs $60,000.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced this week that it will be installing holograms at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark airports in early July. Although she says she never takes a break, doesn't charge overtime, doesn't need a background check and hardly ever takes sick leave, the hologram-like avatar has already drawn ire.
"Sexist, Anti-Labor (Anti-Human?) Robots Take Over Customer Service Duty At Area Airports" reads Village Voice blogger Steven Thrasher's headline. Jezebel's Cassie Murdoch wrote, "t seems more like she's been designed as a submissive sex doll for men who are vehemently opposed to people being employed than she does a helpful friend."
Her self-introduction certainly was nauseating in this WNYC Radio video, but the strange part is she's not interactive. Visitors can listen to her but not ask questions. Then again, maybe that's for the best since certain responses might trigger actual violence. And to be fair, the Port Authority is also hiring 70 new multilingual human agents.
The holographic deployment is part of a larger effort to improve customer service at New York airports. Other measures include limiting taxi hustling, adding power poles for charging devices, and making bathrooms cleaner, according to a Port Authority press release. In my book a sparkling restroom trumps a holographic greeter.