Christchurch International Airport in New Zealand has started testing humanoid robots at its terminal as part of an initiative to study emerging disruptive technologies.

Other technologies that the airport is testing under this initiative include autonomous smart shuttle and virtual reality training for its fire service.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said that a total of three Pepper robots have been tested at the airport by staff. Of them, one will be now become operational at the terminal.

Johns said: “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 ten to 20 years.”

Pepper will be located at the Digital Innovation Zone at the first floor of the airport terminal, opposite the South bar. He will interact with the public for a few hours every day from Monday to Friday.

Another Pepper robot will be added to the University of Canterbury’s (UC) Human Interface Technology Lab NZ (HIT Lab NZ) as a part of the airport’s collaboration with the university.

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

“Pepper is a robot designed to interact with humans. It is 120cm tall, can recognise faces and basic human emotions, respond to requests made on the touch screen on its chest and hold a conversation. At the moment, topics of conversation are limited, but growing all the time.”

HIT Lab NZ director Rob Lindeman, who leads the project, will look into the robot’s capabilities and programme the humanoid robot to interact with airport visitors effectively.

In February last year, Munich Airport and Lufthansa started trials for a new humanoid robot, known as Josie Pepper, which will provide information to passengers.