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
Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Will our manners go the same way as texting when robotic servants take over?

Much of the talk in the industry is focused on the limited amount of time that screens have left in our lives.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

Social purpose: Oxygen for your brand health vitals

If trust is the new currency, then we’re in deep trouble. Here's why.

Carolyn Butler-Madden

Founder and CEO, Sunday Lunch

Customer experience disruption: Healthcare faces a bitter pill

Over the past decade, disruptors such as Amazon, Apple and Australia’s Atlassian have delivered technology enhanced customer experiences, which for the most part, have improved customers’ lives and delivered unparalleled growth. Can they do the same for healthcare?

Alex Allwood

Principal, All Work Together

are you talking about bbc news here

frank

CMO interview: How BBC Worldwide's marketing lead builds brand purpose and growth

Read more

Toms is definitely my favourite shoe brand! Along with Aurélien. For this summer I bought two pairs of navy Toms espadrilles and a pair o...

Paul Erickson

​The shoe with a good soul: TOMS’ innovations for philanthropic engagement

Read more

I think this is the best article today about the salesforce latest platform. Thanks for taking your own time to discuss this topic, I fee...

Ramramky

Salesforce looks to democratise AI, IoT with latest platform play

Read more

I came across this recently when researching blockchain loyalty point projects. There are quite a few projects. Most are in development a...

Andrew @ EcomLoop

How cryptocurrency is set to change the customer loyalty program model

Read more

nive!

Maureen Becks

How AI helped San Churros build brand loyalty and excitement

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in