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Oct 10, 2014 4:26 PM

Indianapolis airport debuts customer service robot

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) A new customer service robot has started roaming around the passenger terminal of Indianapolis International Airport.

The robot was rolled out Thursday, with a staffer guiding it remotely around the baggage claim area greeting travelers and looking for anyone who needed assistance. The robot looks like a miniature Segway, but with a blue customer service shirt and an interactive iPod on top showing the face of the employee piloting it.

Guest services director Brian Eckstein drove the robot remotely, with the camera lens on the iPad giving him a wide view of its surroundings and the travelers on the terminal's ground floor.

"They don't have to come up the escalator to talk to us at guest services," Eckstein told WRTV. "We actually assist them right there, tell them what zone their transportation is going out of or what bag claim or where's lost and found."

Many travelers didn't seem to know what to make of the robot on its first day. Some waved to it, while others took photos.

When Cliff Willms was told he could ask the robot questions, he said he wasn't ready to do that.

"I'd rather ask a human a question, than a machine," Willms told The Indianapolis Star. "At this point, I'm good with just gawking at it."

Other travelers said they liked the robot idea.

"I think it's fantastic," Joe Asen said. "It's great customer service. He's a nice guy, by the way."

Airport officials are holding a contest among employees to come up with a name for the robot.

The robot also will be used when the guest desk is closed. That counter is staffed from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

Airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini said the robot will be tried out in different parts of the passenger terminal.

"We've experimented with it at the gates and other places," he said. "It seems especially useful to people who want to know where to catch taxis or shuttle buses."


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