Auckland Airport claims world-first with AI-powered avatar

Digital biosecurity officer launched as part of a trial of virtual assistant technologies at the airport

Vai, Auckland Airport's new digital biosecurity officer
Vai, Auckland Airport's new digital biosecurity officer

Visitors arriving into Auckland’s International Airport are getting a very hands-on experience with virtual assistants after the airport launched what it claims is the first ‘digital’ biosecurity officer worldwide.

Vai, which stands for virtual assistant interface, started her official employment onsite last week as part of a trial of the technology in the airport’s biosecurity arrivals area. The trial is being conducted by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) in partnership with Westpac’s Innovation Fund and is about taking some of the load off its officers during peak times, MPI detection technology manager, Brett Hickman, said. Vai will do this by screening the public using simple biosecurity questions.

Vai is the brainchild of New Zealand company, FaceMe, and is based on avatar technology that uses biometrics to learn human interactions, as well as natural language processing.

“Digital employees also learn from every past interaction to sharpen and perfect their skills,” FaceMe CEO, Danny Tomsett, said.

“Vai is highly conversational and has been trained through every interaction, as well as data available on the website. She embodies the AI experience with human-like qualities, including a friendly personality and emotional understanding.”

While Hickman said nothing will replace human interaction and relationships, having Vai in place frees up officers to deal with the “really important aspects of their role”.

The Westpac Innovation Fund is a $10 million initiative established jointly by Westpac and the New Zealand Government. Westpac head of public sector strategy, Brent Chalmers, said the fund saw value in supporting the trial of AI-based avatars in different parts of government.

“The aim is to help create services and experiences that help grow a better and more innovative New Zealand,” he said.

Findings from the trial are expected to be published in April.

FaceMe isn’t the only New Zealand-based company getting into the AI-powered avatar space. Soul Machines, another startup in the land of the long white cloud formed by Mark Sagar, has created a number of avatars including Nadia, a virtual human voiced by Cate Blanchett that’s now being trialled by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). Nadia was designed to operate across multiple channels from the outset to create a consistent interaction for clients, with the face being just one representation.

Another example of Soul Machines’ virtual humans in action is Sophie, a pilot customer interaction project for Air New Zealand.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu       

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Is artificial intelligence riddled with bias?

The purpose of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has always been to replace the menial and repetitive tasks we do each day in every sector, so that we can concentrate on doing what we do best. Saving time and money has certainly been a decent outcome as AI infiltrates the business landscape, however, now we are starting to see problems that cause major issues in practice.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

5 things every business can do to drive brand loyalty

If you’re in any customer-centric role, you’ll likely be familiar with the Net Promoter Score (NPS) – one of the most popular tools for brands to measure their customer sentiment.

Catherine Anderson

Chief customer officer, Powershop Australia

What the modern gig economy is doing to customer experience

Most marketing theory was established in the context of stable employment relationships. From front-line staff to marketing strategists and brand managers, employees generally enjoyed job security with classic benefits such as superannuation plans, stable income streams, employment rights, training, sabbaticals and long-service leave.

Dr Chris Baumann

Associate professor, Macquarie University

Thank you! That was useful to know.

Belia Adam

Why your best social marketing brand tool could be hiding in plain sight

Read more

Because you are missing the point of the term "disruption"

Sean

Uber for the truckies: How one Aussie startup is disrupting the freight industry

Read more

Absolutely agree with this ... Facebook doesn't care what adds they show. You report an add for fake news/scam and it just remains "open...

Quasi Carbon

Unilever CMO threatens Facebook, Google with digital advertising boycott

Read more

How to create Pinball game in 4 minshttps://youtu.be/S1bsp7del3M

Alex Atmavan

Rethinking gamification in marketing

Read more

True Local - one of the least credible review sites on the entire internet.

MyNameIsStomp

Former Virgin Mobile CMO and CEO joins oOh! as first customer chief

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in