When Holograms Are Greeting You at Airports, What's Next?

Two British airports have become the first in the world to create holographic projections of their staff

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When you go through airport security lines, are you always forgetting to take off your belt or get rid of the shaving cream in the dark recesses of your carry-on? Or, alternatively, are you always waiting in line because this has happened to the guy in front of you? Two British airports have come up with an unprecedented solution to the problem.

In an effort to speed up security lines, the United Kingdom's Manchester Airport and London Luton Airport have installed two-dimensional holographic projections of their employees to welcome travelers and remind them about liquid restrictions, security line procedures, and boarding passes.

Sky News reports that the holograms are "so convincing that passengers have been seen presenting their passports to the holograms, believing them to be people." Manchester Airport, for its part, is no stranger to envelope-pushing initiatives, having once dressed staff up as giant deodorant cans and bottles of water to enforce liquid regulations.

So what's the verdict on these holograms--spooky or genius?

  • This Could Be Game-Changing, predicts Christian Milsom at Zath. He notes that the holograms are "more interactive than just signs, and thus potentially a lot more effective ... Surely being served at shops by holographic people isn't completely beyond the realm of possibility!"
  • But Will It Really Be Effective? wonders Chris Morran at The Consumerist: "Do you think this will actually be a help to travelers or did the airport just spend money on a trumped-up video display? And I can't be the only one thinking 'Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi--You're my only hope.'"
  • Disgruntled Passengers Should Be Happy, states CNET's Chris Matyszczyk: "If you've ever wanted to walk straight through the sometimes very busy bodies of certain airport staff, now you can go to Manchester and try a dry run."
  • I'm Both Soothed and Frightened, says Eric Wilbur at Boston.com:

In future hologram installments at security checkpoints, shouldn't airports get a bit more personal with the cities they service? Imagine a Mayor Menino hologram attempting to relay to passengers the airline safety requirements at Logan Airport. Or, on that note, how about a lifelike Donald Duck at Orlando International?

Maybe not. Still, there's something hypnotically soothing--if not frighteningly futuristic--about holograms employed at an airport ... The employees used in the holograms support their use, as it lightens their workloads. But at what point do the holograms permanently take their place?

Here's a BBC video on Luton Airport's two holographic staff members, Holly and Graham (get it?):

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.