A useful, though somewhat eerie, technology will start guiding passengers through airline terminals later this year. Developed by Misapplied Sciences based in Redmond, Wash., and being rolled out by Delta Airlines, Parallel Reality technology will replace the typical information-packed airport display screen that shows all departing flights with individual messages customized for each traveler. The real magic? All of those messages will appear simultaneously on a single large screen, but you’ll just see the one intended for you.
This wall of mirrors reflects one large-screen display; each mirror represents a person standing in a different place in the same room. Photo: Tekla Perry
The technology took some five years to develop, says Misapplied Sciences chief operating and creative officer Dave Thompson. It involves hardware that splits the light from each pixel in the display, sending different colors and brightnesses in a variety of directions, adjusting the angles on the fly. The demo I saw at CES 2020 allowed up to 100 people to view personalized images—each seeing their own name and flight information in their language of choice—but Thompson says the technology can accommodate thousands of simultaneous viewers. Travelers scan their boarding passes—it’s an opt-in system—and then cameras follow their movements around the terminal to ensure that when they look at a display, they see a personalized message.
Delta plans to start using the technology this summer at the Detroit Metro Airport.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.