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Meet Spencer a humanoid robot who helps you get round the airport

By Stephen Morgan     Dec 1, 2015 in Technology
Getting around a busy international airport can be a stressful thing, especially if you aren't familiar with it or if you happen to be running late for the flight.
But don't worry, if you're passing through Amsterdam's Schiphol international airport, Spencer the walking, super robot will come to save you.
Since one of the main reasons that people miss their flights is their failure to find the right check-in and departure gates, authorities at Schiphol are experimenting with a new humanoid robot called Spencer to guide people around the airport.
The project was launched by Dutch airline KLM and is also being partly funded by the European Commission. It involves researchers from Sweden’s Örebro University, as well as other teams from Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Slightly taller than the average person, but with a friendly simplistic face, Spencer is equipped with an interactive panel and can communicate in several languages.
Phys.org explains how it works;
"Researchers from Örebro have equipped the robot with a prerequisite for navigation – maps. The robot then surveys its surroundings by measuring the distance to various obstructions using laser beams."
"Spencer's robotic body is equipped with two front- and two rear-facing visual and depth sensors, two 2D laser scanners, a stereo camera pair (which look like eyes) and five onboard computers." says The Telegraph.
It can navigate around groups of people and it can look around to see if the people it's guiding are keeping up. The robot also has ability to understand and react to human behaviour and not pile through the middle of families or couples.
However, because it navigates by way of the airport's fixed structures, it can become disorientated by non-permanent structures. The leader of the project, Achim Lilienthal, explained in a press release.
"We do not know, for instance, how long that luggage trolley will be parked in a particular spot, which makes it harder for the robot to determine its own location. We are working on a general map representation that includes and allows the robot to handle temporarily permanent objects."
It will also help people who have delayed flights or other problems by being able to communicate information more quickly to passengers than humans can. Researchers also think it could have similar uses in other public places such as shopping malls.
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