Dubai: Soon, spot robot cleaners on flights; pay for coffee with your face

Over 30 technologies were on display at the Emirates airlines headquarters on as part of an innovation exhibition


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Thu 6 Jun 2024, 4:54 PM

Last updated: Thu 6 Jun 2024, 11:45 PM

The next time you step off an airplane, it might be an AI-powered robot that cleans, steams and disinfects your seat. The innovation was one of the over 30 technologies that was on display at the Emirates airlines headquarters on Thursday as part of an innovation exhibition.

During demonstrations, the robotic arm turned 90 degrees to vacuum and steam airplane seats. A spokesperson for the innovations team, however, said new iterations of the robot will be able to do much more.

“We want it to pull out the trays and clean it,” said Keenan Hamza, Vice President Technology Futures & Innovation, Emirates Group. “We want it to check the seat pockets to see if there is anything that is left behind and needs to be handed over to the flyers. The beauty about this arm is that it will create a visual report for the operators, so that if there is any defect in the seat that needs human intervention, it can flag it.”

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The innovations team are also attempting to get the robot to do functionality inspections. “Sometimes when you go to a seat, there is a problem with the light or the screen is not working properly. So we are trying to implement this feature in the robot that it can complete a full functionality check,” he said.

The robot was displayed at Forsatek, an annual event to showcase innovations, proof of concepts, technology, partnerships, and the start-up ecosystem of Emirates group. It is themed around aviation, travel and tourism and is envisioned as a platform that will showcase the future of travel through entrepreneurship and innovation, fostering, collaboration, encouraging incubator communities and driving thought-provoking ideas.

Paying with your face

Imagine not having your bank cards or phone with you but still being able to pay for your coffee. That is what a tech company called PopId has developed. “With a one-time registration action, people can pay for any transaction with their faces,” said Ian Hyndman from the company.

Customers can take a selfie that is converted to biometrics which can then be used to pay for purchases. According to Ian, the technology has been in use at a leading supermarket chain in the UAE and has cut transaction time by 75% using the facial biometrics.

“Once your card is registered, you can leave your card and phone at home,” he said. “No one can borrow your card and purchase using it. If someone uses a mask or a picture, it won’t work because there are two cameras.”

Although the technology links a bank account, it doesn’t store any card details and cuts down on instances of fraudulent transactions, according to Ian. The technology is also currently involved in a pilot project with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

Next generation robots

Another technology that was on display at the event was a robotic skin that responded to the touch of feather. Developed in partnership with Technical University of Munich and intouch robotics, the skin paves way for a new generation of robots that can work alongside humans in a variety of fields.

During a demonstration, its makers showed how the robot can measure the weight of a package and then decide how much pressure to use to carry it without damaging it.

The event featured several partners of the Emirates group and more than 30 start-ups, who are part of the incubators Intelak or Aviation X Lab to present their ideas to industry leaders. Keenan said these partners are an integral part of the Emirates ecosystem.


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