New York, NY – Say hello to Marie, LaGuardia Airport’s brand new employee. However, unlike her co-workers, Marie doesn’t require lunch or bathroom breaks, and her bosses don’t have to worry about her showing up late to work. That’s because Marie is LaGuardia’s digital greeter, a computer-controlled avatar designed to welcome customers and explain where they can find the airport’s many services.
Here’s how it works: According to the New York Times, the image is broadcast from a projector onto a specially-coated two-inch thick glass screen. Motion sensors detect when someone gets close, prompting Marie to begin an informative script designed to welcome folks to the airport. When she’s not needed, Marie stands at attention, twiddling her thumbs to pass time.
“You can see, when nobody’s asking her any questions, she looks around, she smiles, she twiddles her thumbs a bit,” explained LaGuardia General Manager Tom Bosco. “She never complains, she’s pretty, she’s got a good personality. She’s a little bit shallow though.”
However, as remarkable as Marie may be, she does have her limitations. Betabeat reports that Marie cannot answer any direct questions. Try as you might, she won’t listen to a single word you say. Although you might find this a bit disappointing, Bosco seems pleased with the job she’s doing.
“She answers the basic questions a customer might have, like where are the restrooms, where do I catch the train, where’s the departure board, those kind of things,” he explained. The 90-second loop is more of an introduction to LaGuardia Airport, as opposed to being a full-fledged customer service representative.
Marie does her job so well that some flesh-and-blood CSRs are understandably a little jealous. “If you’re walking, are you really going to stop and wait until she gets to the part about the bathroom, or are you going to look for a sign,” one employee said anonymously.
Bosco, of course, thinks Marie is a wise investment. Although he insists Marie won’t replace human beings, the company isn’t above adding more helpful avatars at some point down the line.