Air New Zealand shows the potential of digital humans in customer service

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Air New Zealand has teamed up with fellow New Zealand company, Soul Machines, to showcase a digital human powered by artificial intelligence at a recent event in Los Angeles with a view to exploring how this fast-evolving technology can help travelers.

Sophie the digital human, impressed guests at the North American launch of Air New Zealand’s new global marketing campaign A Better Way to Fly with her advanced emotional intelligence and responsiveness as she answered questions about New Zealand as a tourist destination and the airline’s products and services.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX8nuivO6_M&feature=youtu.be

The Soul Machines technology behind Sophie uses neural networks and brain models to bring digital humans to life from a cloud based Human Computing Engine. Sophie underwent specific training prior to the LA launch including teaching her about New Zealand and Air New Zealand, tweaking her Kiwi accent and perfecting her facial expressions.

Working with Sophie underscores Air New Zealand’s commitment to harnessing technology to improve customer experience. While there’s no current plan to employ Sophie on a permanent basis, experimenting with digital human technology is just one of the airline’s many forays into the innovation space. Other examples include; the unique Economy Skycouch™ – a row of three economy seats that together create a flexible space to stretch out and relax, the Airband – a piece of wearable technology which enables parents to track the progress of children travelling unaccompanied, and Biometric Bag Drop – a self-service bag drop using world-first biometric technology at Auckland airport.

Air New Zealand General Manager of Global Brand and Content Marketing Jodi Williams says, “We’re always looking for new ways to improve the travel experience and solve pain points with digital innovation. We’re excited to have had the opportunity to partner with Soul Machines, to bring Sophie to life and explore new ways to approach customer experience.”

Greg Cross, Chief Business Officer at Soul Machines, says, “We’re creating some of the world’s first emotionally responsive and interactive digital humans and we were thrilled to partner with Air New Zealand to showcase Sophie at the Los Angeles event. Sophie learns from every new human interaction, so the experience was invaluable in creating a more tailored and personalized encounter for those that interacted with Sophie.

Air New Zealand flies nonstop to Auckland from Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and Houston. Services are operated by Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft (Honolulu), Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (Los Angeles & San Francisco) and 777-200ER (Vancouver & Houston) all featuring the airline’s innovative Economy Skycouch™ and award-winning lie-flat Business Premier bed.