Holographic customer service: A real vision or a hollow claim?

Over a year ago a number of articles sought to highlight how holographic greeters in hotels, department stores, museums, schools and hospitals may enhance merchants' abilities to deliver better customer service. The idea of projecting oneself in 3D first gained widespread international attention when Britain's Prince Charles addressed a meeting on advanced energy in Abu Dhabi in the Middle-East without being physically present there.  At the time, it was touted as a way to minimize one's carbon footprint and as a substitute to physical travel. 

Starwood's Aloft hotels was an early entrant in the field and garnered a fair amount of media attention for its holographic concierge that was expected to vow guests.  The hype was plentiful with the news release stating that the hotel chain was "stepping up the level of customer service provided to guests with a holographic greeter/concierge". The lifestyle hotel chain touted its faux-concierge as "a holographic image projected onto a life-sized cut-out is so unique and lifelike that guests can't help but stop and stare". The company went on to say that it would be "using the greeter to provide information to their guests about their hotel’s amenities and offerings."  

Nearly three years later there does not appear to be the level of traction that was predicted when the holographic concierge was launched and it is not to be found in any of Starwood's other hotels.  However, that may well be because it was ahead of its times.  Holograms were used very powerfully in India's recent national election by candidate Narendra Modi, who went on to become prime minister.  Developed by UK based Musion, the campaign enabled Mr. Modi to reach out to an exponentially greater number of voters in 3D, a factor that may well have contributed to his success at the hustings.

More recently at the Meet the Future Conference in London last month its potential to engage the audience was quite literally dramatically exemplified.  Over 300 delegates witnessed a 3D holographic interview live on stage at Central Hall Westminster "that created a real buzz as the audience struggled to differentiate between the live presenter and the life-like holographic image" of the interviewee.  

Musion, the UK company refers to the trademarked process as "Telepresence" and touts it as a "groundbreaking holographic video conferencing technology."  The company has partnered "with major telecom carriers like Cisco, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and EE" whereby it is possible to "transmit full-size holographic people and objects in real-time without any significant delay in communication." Unlike many faux-disrupters and indeed scofflaws, this technology could really end up changing the dynamics of the travel and hospitality industry both in terms of customer service as well as heads-in-beds.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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