Are virtual holographic assistants of value?
Our local station, Kings Cross, now has one of these holographic assistants reminding people not to take heavy luggage up the escalators but to use the lift instead.
You will note that just to the right, at the bottom of the escalator, is a sign giving the same message. That sign has been there since the station reopened and, we can assume, has not had any impact on people carrying luggage on the escalators and presumably on accident rates. So they have decided to add to it with this more visible solution. (this was also picked up by The Guardian)
These holographic assistants have become more common place since we first saw them at Luton Airport a few years ago.
We think the lessons for their use are much clearer now. The main point that they are not a replacement for a real person and should never be used as such.
What they do provide is a different channel to communicate information in a way that can attract attention. In this case, and the same when used to prepare passengers for airport security areas, they deliver information in a way that makes us notice it…at least for a while. This is good in places where static signage is not very noticeable, perhaps because of the complexity of the environment, and is clearly ignored.
The design challenge is probably reflected in the need to regularly vary the way in which this same information is presented as we become desensitised to each approach.
This should include the use of more playful solutions, which we have highlighted a number of times on this blog. Although designed as a promotion for the Simpsons movie*, you could argue that this was a great way to draw peoples attention to the end of the escalator and improve safety.
* actually it looks like this was never used as an actual advert and the escalators in the movie was created by a street artist in Frankfurt.