Delta’s new airport technology displays personalized flight information on the big screen



Inside a Detroit Metropolitan Airport terminal, thousands of passengers a week are heading for the gates using technology that sounds like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.

Delta Air Lines recently introduced a “Parallel Reality” system that allows travelers to access individual flight information on a split overhead screen based on a scan of their boarding pass – or face. The twist is that 100 people can do it at once, all using the same digital screen but only seeing their own personal details.

Unlike a regular TV or video wall, where each pixel would emit the same color of light in all directions, the array sends different colors of light in different directions.

So what was wrong with the old system? The one where people stare at a giant screen with dozens of rows of flights – or down a small screen on their phone?

Greg Forbes, general manager of airport experience for Delta, said large overhead displays can be misinterpreted, especially at busy airports with multiple daily flights to the same location. And phones can be a safety hazard.

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“We just have a real concern with people speeding around, staring at their phones rather than being aware of their surroundings,” he said. The airline therefore wanted the type of individual messages delivered via an app, but in the form of a large display screen.

“That’s where the solution that we hadn’t even considered came to us,” Forbes said. Delta employees discovered the technology, developed by a company called Misapplied Sciences, more than three years ago. Then he partnered with the start-up and invested in the company.

Parallel Reality is based on display technology that allows multiple people to simultaneously look at the same board and see personalized information without using any tool like a camera or headset.

“You just have to look at the screens with the naked eye,” said Albert Ng, managing director of Misapplied Sciences.

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In Detroit, an air motion sensor that tracks moving objects anonymously tracks passengers after they scan their boarding pass or face to learn where to direct flight information, Ng said. Travelers must enroll in Delta’s facial recognition technology to use face scanning.

Delta’s plans for the technology were first announcement in January 2020 with plans for a rollout that year, but the pandemic delayed the introduction until late last month.

Although the use of facial recognition technology is not required for information panels, Delta has also added the option to “digital identity technology“, in partnership with the Transportation Security Administration, in several airports including Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and LaGuardia in New York. The airline said passengers will eventually be able to use facial recognition at all US hubs.

Feedback on display screens has been “great” so far, Forbes said. On busy days, about 1,500 or 1,600 people interact with the technology. He said he expects more installations in the future so the airline can make a “more robust assessment” of future use.

“If everything continues as positively as it has so far, I would expect to see it at more airports and in more places in the airport,” he said.


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