16 Jul 2018

KLM to test robotic companion smart trolley at JFK and SFO

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has developed a prototype robot companion Care-E, a smart self-driving baggage trolley that can guide passengers through the airport while carrying their hand luggage up to 85 pounds.

KLM’s Care-E was given a personality feature, intended to match the friendliness and special care that KLM staff offer customers. The robot expresses emotions with non-verbal sounds and has an illuminated panel with two light dots that recreate eye movement.

Care-E will be deployed for proof-of-concept trials for two days at JFK and SFO during the summer of 2018. The robot will greet passengers after security, scan the barcodes of their tickets, and follow them around the airport at up to 3 mph; it also serves as a guide to find shops, restaurants, restrooms, and leads passengers to their gate. The robot is programmed with a GPS map of the airport and is updated with the latest gate information so it knows where to go if there are gate changes. The passenger can simply follow along.

KLM worked with 10xBeta, a boutique product development firm with an international team of designers and engineers, to develop the trolley.

Care-E is the cousin of KLM’s other recent airport robot trial—Spencer—which also served to guide passengers around Schiphol airport ensuring they didn’t miss their international connections.

Like Spencer, Care-E is a one time edition, simply to test the technology which includes:

  • 4K LED Display: LED display for Care-E animations and information
  • LiDAR: Laser sensors for 2D environment mapping, collision avoidance, localization and navigation on the front of Care-E
  • RGB-D Camera: Camera for viewing environment, body detection/tracking, boarding pass scanning, and gathering depth data on the front of Care-E
  • Boarding Pass Camera: Camera for scanning passenger boarding passes
  • Ultrasonic Rangefinder: Sensors for Care-E’s peripheral collision avoidance. Five in front, three in rear
  • Absolute Encoder: Encoders to precisely measure wheel rotation for odometry and localization.
  • AHRS: Inertial measurement unit and attitude heading reference system for determining pitch, roll, heading, collision detection, and measuring acceleration.
  • BLE Modules and Directional Antennas: BLE antennas developed to detect cliff effect when passenger moves out of directional broadcast pattern.

KLM will collect data from the trials that will guide future autonomous technology developments.

Boet Kreiken, Executive Vice President Customer Experience at KLM said of the program:

“We wanted to surprise our customers with an airport concept that was an extension of our friendly, smiling staff. We are curious to see how this innovative test of personified tech will be perceived by customers. We have the ambition to revolutionize the delivery of care through the power of existing innovations and move diagnostics from the laboratory to where our customer really is.”

You can watch Care-E in action here:


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