KLM Airlines Introduces Airport Robot Guide

December 8, 2015 by

Spencer the robot

Finding your way around an airport can be challenging, especially if you’re in a hurry to make a connecting flight. Signage points passengers in the right direction, but there’s so much to see and read while juggling carryons, coats, and keeping kids in sight that it can become confusing.

Now KLM Airlines is making a technological jump to help confused passengers at Schipol Amsterdam airport with a robot by the name of Spencer.

Why a Robot?

For now, the KLM Airlines plan to introduce the robot with a test run the first week of December. KLM chose to donate money to this unique project because passengers were commonly getting lost and often missed connecting flights.

They chose the armless robot to work as a guide because, unlike an information center, it can interact with people and actually show them the way to go. However, this presented challenges, too.


Achim Lilienthal, project leader at Örebro University, told Engadget that, “Navigating an airport is challenging, there is a lot of glass and a constantly changing environment in terms of temporary obstructions, such as parked luggage trolleys and people everywhere. Objects that are temporarily permanent so to speak, are the most difficult to work around. We do not know, for instance, how long that luggage trolley will be parked in a particular spot, which makes it harder for the robot to determine its own location. We are working on a general map representation that includes and allows the robot to handle temporarily permanent objects.”

Spencer the Robot

The robot is referred to as “Spencer” and in a report on Engadget it says that “Spencer is equipped with laser range-finding eyes and detailed maps of the airport’s interior.” All this high-tech gadgetry will help guide travelers trying to find their way around the airport.

The team behind this project have “trained” Spencer to comprehend human behaviors, and to a limited degree, social habits.

For instance, instead of barreling through a crowd, Spencer knows to sidestep the group. It even knows enough to keep tabs on the group it is leading to make sure no one is left behind.

Photo credits: wochit Tech

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