American air travel is miserable in almost every possible way, from increasingly onerous security procedures to the threat of literally having your teeth knocked out. But based on the video above, I’m going to cling to the notion that things are better in New Zealand, because airlines there are apparently busy figuring out how to let flight attendants read your emotions with augmented reality.
The project is a collaboration between Air New Zealand and Dimension Data, using the Microsoft HoloLens headset. As VRScout notes, it’s supposedly in beta testing, and it’s not clear how much of what we see in the video exists. In the system Air New Zealand describes, HoloLens-equipped flight attendants could identify passengers through (as far as I can tell) facial recognition, calling up details about their destination, allergies, and even the time since they got their last beverage.
In addition to this, the program would detect a passenger’s mood through “visual and audio cues” — in the video, an attendant sees them go from “calm” to “anxious” and back again. Of course, it’s not clear whether HoloLens could pick this up better than an actual human, and the whole facial recognition process seems far more complicated than Air New Zealand’s previous biometric bag drop system, which matched faces to scanned passports. There’s also the matter of this generation of HoloLens being ridiculous-looking and uncomfortable, and interactions being a little difficult — later in the video, you can see someone getting trained to perform the signature “air tap” gesture.
But in the long run, augmented reality displays actually are a good idea for people who need to see information while walking around and using their hands. Also, facial recognition systems would only have to scan against the relatively small number of people with boarding passes, not an entire database of potential customers. In coach class, though, it may not be used for much more than saving my preference for peanuts, pretzels, or cookies.