Delta’s New Parallel Reality Experience In Detroit: Cool But Pointless?

Delta’s New Parallel Reality Experience In Detroit: Cool But Pointless?

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Airline executives spend a lot of time talking about technology and personalization, though generally I find that it’s little more than talk. Delta has now introduced a feature at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), and the airline claims this makes it “the airport of the future.”

Delta’s customized parallel reality board

Delta has introduced parallel reality technology at Detroit Airport, in the form of a large digital screen that allows up to 100 people to each see information that’s customized to them.

Customers who opt in to using digital identity at check-in can access the parallel reality exhibit via facial recognition, by going up to the exhibit and looking at a camera. Meanwhile other passengers can access this by scanning their boarding pass.

Delta’s parallel reality experience Detroit

The screen then displays customized information to each person, as it shows different things depending on the angle at which you look at it. The screen displays a person’s name, SkyMiles elite status, departure gate, flight number, and flight time.

Delta’s parallel reality technoloy

This technology first debuted at CES 2020, and Delta partnered with Southern California-based tech startup Misapplied Sciences to introduce this.

Here’s how Ranjan Goswami, Delta’s SVP of Customer Experience, describes this technology:

“If this new technology can make finding your gate and departure information quicker and easier, we’re not just showing customers a magic trick — we’re solving a real problem. Customers already rely on personalized navigation via their mobile devices, but this is enabling a public screen to act as a personal one – removing the clutter of information not relevant to you to empower a better journey.” 

“Most of us can’t imagine our lives without the constant peace of mind our cell phones provide. But I think customers are eventually going to want to be able to navigate their journeys without being buried in their screens. In the future, I’d love to create an airport experience as convenient and informative as the phone in your hand.” 

This is really cool, but…

This technology is totally awesome and innovative. Forget the actual application here, but the fact that a screen can use facial recognition to display 100 different messages at the same time purely based on the angle at which someone is looking at the screen is incredible.

That being said, I question the extent to which this is actually useful, rather than just a shiny toy:

  • People will no doubt check this out for the novelty, because it’s pretty cool; in that sense, this is great PR for Delta, as it shows that the airline is a leader when it comes to tech and innovation
  • The kind of person who would use this technology would also be the kind of person who has the Delta app, which displays all of this information, and more; that can be accessed from anywhere, and doesn’t require going to one specific spot
  • Admittedly this could just be the first instance of this technology being used, and in the future there could be other applications; however, I’m struggling to think of positive uses of this for consumers, rather than just targeted advertising
  • It’s interesting that a Delta executive claims that this makes “the customer feel seen and valued,” because at least in my case, it’s people who make me feel valued, and not some (admittedly cool) tech that has no human element; this would be like saying that Instagram makes me feel valued by suggesting profiles with airplanes and cute dogs
  • I know it’s just the avgeek in me, but I wouldn’t want to see these fully replace departure boards; looking at departure boards and seeing all the destinations from a major global hub is one of my favorite things about being at an airport

I’m not meaning to rag on the idea. It’s just that airlines only have so much money to invest in things, and I assume this wasn’t cheap. I feel like there are other areas where the money could be better spent. I’m curious if any OMAAT readers can think of other applications of this that might be more useful.

Bottom line

Delta has a new parallel reality experience at Detroit Airport, which is awesome technology that’s worth checking out for the novelty. Using facial recognition, customized flight information can be displayed for up to 100 people at once, depending on the angle at which one looks at the screen. While cool, I question if this serves a purpose beyond the cool factor.

What do you make of Delta’s parallel reality experience?

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  1. Bill Wildon Guest

    Truly amazing technology.

  2. Tom Guest

    I was flying through DTW on the 2nd, and saw this out the SkyClub window - it creeped me out.

    I really don't care for the Minority Report aspect of tracking exactly where someone walks in the airport. I assume this data is monetizable by Delta, somehow.

  3. DMan Guest

    Face it- If this was at a different airport everyone would love it and say it’s the coolest thing ever. But it’s in Detroit so people complain. Detroit and negativity go hand in hand. A nice metro area of 4.3 million held back by a few bad neighborhoods.

    For the screen- It’s a great idea. Why stop at a monitor wall when you can just look up and see your flight and how to get there. Very smart and practical.

    1. John Guest

      @DMan

      No sir, I'm not letting you sneak that whopper past!
      There is no need to get defensive. No one is ragging on Motor City.
      The issue is Delta's shortcomings, which are real and systemic. You could put in Atlanta, and it still would be a meaningless waste of money for the overwhelming majority of pax.

  4. CMorgan Guest

    Before they embark on futuristic ventures they need to go back to focusing on the basics such as not cancelling flights, hiring enough staff, avoiding delays etc. Putting the cart before the horse here.

  5. Fred Guest

    Tom Cruise' 2002 movie - Minority Report

    New technology amazes us, however this is Frightening.

  6. Tom Guest

    "But people have their phones."

    Phones die. Rarely, but usually when it causes the biggest problem. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen people caught in significant trouble, all because their phone didn't work at just the wrong time.

    So, of course I'll continue to carry my phone as my primary information hub. But I'll see innovations such as this one as welcome backups. (And yes, the privacy implications are not trivial.)

  7. Carrie Member

    Is it possible for all around me to read my details on the display screen? Are there no immediate privacy concerns to be addressed even before the fears expressed below as to the retention and distribution of my personal details. I am not naive when it comes to companies holding my data but this technology seems to broadcast my details in real time to others.

    1. tuotuo Member

      Not sure.But most likely the screen comes with facial recognition.You only see the message designed for you.The person in front or behind you only see message designed for them.Those who do not register in this project can only see general messages.

  8. iamhere Guest

    As Tim Dunn mentioned the biggest issue is the display and protection of people's private information.

  9. Donato Guest

    So many thoughts.
    1, I fully expect some passengers walking by and seeing the wrong flight information. Think that is unlikely? Spend more time listening at airports.
    2, The Avgeek in me really enjoys seeing all the different destinations (especially on the classic clicking signs in FRA!!).
    3, You belong, once a Sheraton slogan is not expressed by making you rely on technology as a self service option.

  10. John Guest

    "It's tech for the sake of tech..." @DCAWABN summed it neatly.
    Delta is touting an extremely niche and limited (100 pax out of literally thousands!) product for maximum marketing value. Emirates does the same thing with it's much-vaunted but scarcely available new First Class. Big razzamatazz, but virtually nothing meaningful for the average pax. The real winner is the tech contractor.

  11. FTF Guest

    It could be that the supplier made a very attractive offer to Delta in order to get this out to the public. Software/techies will go to great lengths to get a major "first adopter"! If it works well demand and sales will follow.

  12. Tim Dunn Diamond

    The bigger issue is not the content (or lack thereof) but the tacit acknowledgement that a few cameras and some personal information can allow a private company to "customize an experience" for you.
    Governments don't have to abide by the same requirements for data protection and handling as private companies.
    The bigger concern should be what kindi of "customized experience" the government might have for someone using the personal data which they have.

  13. ktc Guest

    Minority Report coming true

  14. Bobby J Guest

    Rome burns and Nero plays his fiddle...

    I understand why and how this could be a useful tech. And I'm aware enough of how project management works in massive organizations to know that the wheels on this tool were spinning even while the tires were coming off the rest of Delta's operations.

    That said, given the state of summer air travel in America - particularly Delta, the fanfare around this does seem rather tone...

    Rome burns and Nero plays his fiddle...

    I understand why and how this could be a useful tech. And I'm aware enough of how project management works in massive organizations to know that the wheels on this tool were spinning even while the tires were coming off the rest of Delta's operations.

    That said, given the state of summer air travel in America - particularly Delta, the fanfare around this does seem rather tone deaf. Add in the collapse of Delta's JV partners in AMS and it just make it all the more galling to the traveler whose flight(s) was cancelled, bags lost, and refund in perpetual limbo.

    Fix your club capacity issues, fix the SkyClub aesthetics across the network, fix your pilots' contract issues, fix your operational issues, and then throw out candy like this. In the meantime, I and many others will be happy not to fumble with our baggage, phone, etc, and just go to the departure screens to figure out where we need to go.

  15. Ole Guest

    Seems folks here haven’t heard of radio waves and countless other such inventions/technologies that were useless when first invented.

    I think this can be a great tool if used for appropriate usecases - pointing passengers to their next gate, translating to their preferred language. Could even be integrated with lounges, restaurants etc to keep passengers updated on their advanced orders, ETA from checkin to gate and all this could eventually be done without passenger having...

    Seems folks here haven’t heard of radio waves and countless other such inventions/technologies that were useless when first invented.

    I think this can be a great tool if used for appropriate usecases - pointing passengers to their next gate, translating to their preferred language. Could even be integrated with lounges, restaurants etc to keep passengers updated on their advanced orders, ETA from checkin to gate and all this could eventually be done without passenger having to do anything. As I walk in to the airport, camera runs facial rec, and details get updated as I walk thru the airport. All seemless to me, no need to worry about finding my gate, translating language wtc

    1. DCAWABN Guest

      It's tech for the sake of tech to distract from DL's current situation which is spiraling out of control. It's not new, it's a different application of augmented reality we've had for years. Cool? Sure/maybe/not really. Useful? Absolutely not for the vast majority of fliers other than tech nerds who are already familiar. Brought to forebear at the absolutely worst time possible? 100%.

    2. Ole Guest

      The timing is just that…project like this would not have been approved week ago. It would have been in works for a ye of not more. So timing is nothing but bad luck. The current iteration may have limited use case, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be a useful tech in 4/5/10 yrs from now.

  16. tuotuo Member

    If the screen can display multiple languages at the same time.If there are a lot of these screens at the airport.
    Then it will be great for foreign travellers who don't know any English.Like:Chinese can see directions in Chinese to the boarding gate or other facilities. Japanese can see Japanese. French can see French. Germans can see German. and so on.
    And this will also be great for someone looking for someone in...

    If the screen can display multiple languages at the same time.If there are a lot of these screens at the airport.
    Then it will be great for foreign travellers who don't know any English.Like:Chinese can see directions in Chinese to the boarding gate or other facilities. Japanese can see Japanese. French can see French. Germans can see German. and so on.
    And this will also be great for someone looking for someone in the airport.It can even direct two or several people towards each other.

    1. mowogo Member

      I’ve actually seen the previous version of this display show data in multiple different languages at the same time on the same display. It is just one of the settings in your profile, and all the signs in the system will display information in your preferred language.

  17. Txrus Guest

    Watched this being installed & couldn't figure out what it was. Now that I know, I'm a bit underwhelmed & agree w/others that, right now today, the resources spent on this could have probably been better utilized, though I recognize that those resources were allocated long before airmaggedon.

  18. Jimbo Guest

    Would be cool if they dedicated resources on things that matter like.... staffing planes, gates, ramps.

    1. DCAWABN Guest

      Came to say this. Glad I'm not alone. I'm so sick of bloggers who've never met him saying silly things "Ed seems like such a good guy", of course he does...he has handlers. Well, he seemingly can't run an airline at the moment - nor his C-suite. But good thing we have instead a useless technology that's basically just stealing and storing biometric data on lots of fools. They'll have plenty of time to use...

      Came to say this. Glad I'm not alone. I'm so sick of bloggers who've never met him saying silly things "Ed seems like such a good guy", of course he does...he has handlers. Well, he seemingly can't run an airline at the moment - nor his C-suite. But good thing we have instead a useless technology that's basically just stealing and storing biometric data on lots of fools. They'll have plenty of time to use it while their flights are endlessly delayed because DL can't source crews because they offered early retirements. But don't worry, DL will tell us they didn't need bailout money. Such a dumpster fire. Waiting for Tim Dunn to suck him off, though.

    2. Lynn Guest

      As a Delta employee, I couldn’t agree with you more.

  19. mowogo Member

    I actually had the opportunity to participate in the demo at CES 2020 and the potential when rolled out through a large scale through the airport is amazing. It even saves language setting, so if you've opted in through the app, it could start putting signs in your language of choice, and when spread throughout the airport they can guide you to your gate and/or SkyClub (Which with some crowd management could actually improve the...

    I actually had the opportunity to participate in the demo at CES 2020 and the potential when rolled out through a large scale through the airport is amazing. It even saves language setting, so if you've opted in through the app, it could start putting signs in your language of choice, and when spread throughout the airport they can guide you to your gate and/or SkyClub (Which with some crowd management could actually improve the crowding situation by directing guests to other clubs). Some people may use their phones, but long travel days can have people trying to save battery life.

  20. ORD Flyer Guest

    I’d much rather glance at this after going through security than having to pull out my phone, open the Delta App, waiting for the app to refresh and update and then seeing the gate number, and then looking at airport signage to see which direction my gate is.

    Here I just glance up and it tells me exactly where to go instantly.

  21. Never In Doubt Guest

    The screen (and eventually hologram) advertising of countless dystopian sci-fi movies is almost here!

  22. Reyyan Member

    I believe this is really cool tech and definitely has potential, especially because it is able to show the direction for a specific person. For Avgeeks like us, navigating through an airport is a joy, for others not so much. So showing a screen where the passenger has to go personalised to their destination is a pretty useful feature.

    I have to disagree on your view regarding "the customer feels seen and valued". I think...

    I believe this is really cool tech and definitely has potential, especially because it is able to show the direction for a specific person. For Avgeeks like us, navigating through an airport is a joy, for others not so much. So showing a screen where the passenger has to go personalised to their destination is a pretty useful feature.

    I have to disagree on your view regarding "the customer feels seen and valued". I think the Delta executive is actually right, I do believe that this will increase the customer experience because the airport adjusts to the person travelling; Every passenger gets their own personalised experience on the airport. Besides, I rather have a screen telling me "Thank you for being a Diamond medallion" than unfriendly personnel with an attitude at checkin

  23. Emily Guest

    Interesting gimmick. However, with smartphone in our hands, do any of us actually look at airport displays at all? I wonder who this technology is directed towards. The actual system does not seem complicated nor expensive, but unnecessary.

    1. Reno Joe Guest

      The occasional flyer will likely not have the app that facilitates this. And, the frequent flyer, as you note, will likely have checked the Delta app five times and acknowledged the text alerts prior to seeing this display.

    2. Kent Guest

      Agreed. However, I doubt that the occasional flyer will even recognize or know what they are looking at.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Tim Dunn Diamond

The bigger issue is not the content (or lack thereof) but the tacit acknowledgement that a few cameras and some personal information can allow a private company to "customize an experience" for you. Governments don't have to abide by the same requirements for data protection and handling as private companies. The bigger concern should be what kindi of "customized experience" the government might have for someone using the personal data which they have.

2
Tom Guest

I was flying through DTW on the 2nd, and saw this out the SkyClub window - it creeped me out. I really don't care for the Minority Report aspect of tracking exactly where someone walks in the airport. I assume this data is monetizable by Delta, somehow.

1
Ole Guest

The timing is just that…project like this would not have been approved week ago. It would have been in works for a ye of not more. So timing is nothing but bad luck. The current iteration may have limited use case, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be a useful tech in 4/5/10 yrs from now.

1
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