New Delta Airport technology displays personalized flight information on a huge screen


Inside the terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, thousands of passengers each week find their way to the gates using technology that looks like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie.

Delta Air Lines recently introduced a “Parallel Reality” system that allows passengers to access individual flight information on a shared overhead screen based on scanning their boarding pass – or their faces. The evolution is that 100 people can do this simultaneously, all using the same digital screen but only seeing their personal data.

Unlike a regular TV or video wall, where each pixel emits the same color of light in every direction, the panel sends out different colors of light in different directions.

So what’s wrong with the old system? The screen where people look at a giant screen with dozens of rows of flights – or down to a tiny screen on their phone?

Big screens can be misinterpreted, especially at busy airports with multiple daily flights to the same location, said Greg Forbes, managing director of Airport Experience at Delta. Phones can pose a safety hazard.

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“We have a real interest in people walking around at full speed, staring at their phones rather than being aware of their environment,” he said. So the airline wanted the kind of single message delivered through an app, but in the form of a big screen display.

“This is where the solution we hadn’t even thought of came to us,” Forbes said. Delta employees encountered technology developed by a company called “Misscience” more than three years ago. Then she partnered with the startup and invested in the company.

Parallel Reality is based on display technology that enables multiple people to look at the same panel simultaneously and see personal information without using a device such as a camera or headset.

“You only look at the exhibits with the naked eye,” said Albert Ng, CEO of Misapplied Science.

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In Detroit, an overhead motion sensor that tracks anonymously moving objects tracks passengers after they scan their boarding pass or face to see where flight information is directed, Ng said. Travelers need to sign up for Delta facial recognition technology to use face scanning.

Delta’s plans for the technology were first announced in January of 2020 with plans to roll out that year, but the pandemic delayed submissions until late last month.

While the use of facial recognition technology is not necessary for dashboards, Delta has also added a “digital identity technology” option, in partnership with the Transportation Security Administration, at multiple airports including Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York LaGuardia. The airline said passengers will eventually be able to use facial recognition at all US hubs.

Forbes said the reactions on the screens have been “fantastic” so far. On busy days, about 1,500 or 1,600 people interact with technology. He said he expects more installations in the future so the airline can make a “more robust assessment” of future use.

“If everything continues to be positive as it is so far, I would expect to see him in more airports and in more places at the airport,” he said.

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