05:50 PM

TSA Researches Avatars For Airport Security Checkpoints

Agency explores new way to process hundreds of millions of travelers that pass through its security checkpoints each year: helpful, multilingual avatars.

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More than 375 million air travelers have gone through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints so far this year. The agency is exploring a new way of handling such a crowd: helpful, multilingual avatars.

TSA, part of the Department of Homeland Security, has issued a request for information for a "hologram imaging, computer-generated imagery and video projection" system. The system would be used "to assist passengers in navigating through security checkpoints as efficiently as possible," according to the RFI, which was posted on FedBizOpps.gov earlier this month.

The agency is looking for information on technology able to "speak" in multiple languages, including English and Spanish. The system should capture the attention of travelers, be easy to understand, and "be courteous when communicating to the traveling public," according to the RFI.

The job of these virtual TSA agents would include informing passengers of items not allowed on airplanes, such as firearms, sharp objects, and liquid containers of more than a few ounces. The RFI stipulates that the system not emit anything harmful, such as radiation, or interfere with existing checkpoint systems.

[ Read DARPA Challenge Seeks Robots To Drive Into Disasters. ]

TSA is asking vendors to provide information on products that are available or in development that could fit its needs.

Avatars, some in the shape of a person with hologram imaging projected onto them, are showing up in new places. At the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas in July, at least one vendor used a life-size avatar at its booth. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has begun using an avatar on a kiosk at a border crossing in southern Arizona to interview travelers in advance of interacting with real-life CBP officers, according to Scientific American.

Digital TSA agents are the latest in a series of technologies to be introduced or tested by TSA, which came under criticism for its use of body-scanning technology that some people considered an invasion of privacy.

Earlier this year, the agency began testing a new system that verifies an air traveler's identity by matching photo IDs to boarding passes and ensures that boarding passes are authentic.

Separately, TSA issued a request for proposals, valued at $3 million, to purchase 1,000 Macs and 1,000 iPhones, iPads, and iPods, which it planned to use for a variety of purposes, including developing mobile applications.

Contributing writer Dan Taylor is managing editor of Inside the Navy.

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User Rank: Apprentice
8/16/2012 | 8:22:58 PM
re: TSA Researches Avatars For Airport Security Checkpoints
Something like what Dr. Floyd used upon entry to Space Station One in '2001: a space odyssey' but with more personal questions?
User Rank: Apprentice
8/31/2012 | 1:06:09 AM
re: TSA Researches Avatars For Airport Security Checkpoints
Ah, the TSA - wasting more of our tax dollars I see! They want Star Trek tech, but don't have a clue how the Internet works...
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