From Facial Recognition to Robots, How “Minority Report” Predictions Are Impacting Travelers Today

When “Minority Report” hit theaters in 2002, who would have imagined just how accurate its depiction of the future world would be — or just how fast those technologies would come? But here we are 15 years later, and a lot of the futuristic elements in the film, set in 2054, have become a reality. From driverless and flying cars to facial recognition and robots, here’s how the ahead-of-its-time technology featured in the Steven Spielberg movie is impacting business travelers’ experiences today and in the near future.

Biometric identification

Facial and optical recognition was featured in the movie to assist in police search efforts. Today such technology is being utilized at airports not only as a security measure but also as a way to allow low-risk travelers to move through security checkpoints more quickly.

Those who read our recent Atlas article on how to reduce your wait time at airport security lines know that U.S. Customs and Border Protections already use such technology for its Global Entry and CLEAR™ programs.

The way it works: A traveler’s face, iris and/or fingerprints are scanned at a biometric recognition kiosk. Then the information captured is compared to data stored in a traveler’s profile in the system. If there’s a match, the traveler is given the green light and can skip the longer security line.

Despite some travelers’ concerns over privacy (a theme in the movie as well), it looks like biometric recognition is taking over airports all over the world, from London to Dubai and Tokyo to Amsterdam.

Back in May 2017, Delta launched a self-service baggage drop powered by facial recognition technology, and the company also would like to use passengers’ fingerprints down the road to forgo paper boarding passes.

As CBS News reports, along with the Transportation Security Administration, JetBlue began testing in June 2017 to see if facial recognition could be used in lieu of a boarding pass, phone or passport to get them boarded on the aircraft more quickly. Testing is still underway, but stay tuned for more details!

Robots

Now there’s no need to worry. The robots you likely will encounter are nothing like the creepy spiders of “Minority Report” that invade apartments checking people’s IDs.

OK, so maybe AnBot, which operates out of Bao'an Airport in Shenzhen, China, bears a small resemblance — in personality, that is. That’s because the benign-looking, 5-foot-tall robot has been programmed to carry out security checks in the departures hall in one of its terminals. Outfitted with four high-definition cameras with facial recognition software, AnBot can take pictures of passengers and send them for analysis.

And popping up at Silicon Valley’s Mineta San Jose International Airport are Norma, Amelia and Piper. In addition to supplying travelers with directions to dining and shopping destinations, the three robots — named after aviation legends Norma Mineta, Amelia Earhart and William Piper — can dance, play music and take people’s photos.

And at Oakland (Calif.) Airport, you may bump into Pepper while having a bite to eat at the Pyramid Ale Taproom before your flight. The 4-foot-tall humanoid robot is employed there as a waiter and programmed to offer passengers advice on food and drink selections.

And once you land in your destination and check in to your hotel, expect to see more friendly machines waiting to greet you. Hilton teamed up with IBM Watson to create Connie the concierge that can answer hundreds of guest queries on command.

At an InterContinental property, you may find Dash instead of housekeeping turn up at your door when calling down for extra towels or toiletries. Standing 3 feet tall, Dash gets around unaccompanied at a human walking pace and even can navigate between floors and use the elevator.

Driverless and flyer cars

In the movie, the main character John Anderton (Tom Cruise) hitches a ride in — and sometimes on —autonomously controlled vehicles that also can fly. While the public does not have access to this sort of driverless wheels yet, it’s not too long until we do.

Google, which announced its intentions to make a driverless car all the way back in 2009, said it plans to make its model available to the public in 2020.

Like Google’s version, Ford is working on a car with a “level four” automated driving system (level five is the highest). Ford’s model even will have a patented removable steering wheel.

And the future of ride-hailing may include getting from Point A to Point B without anyone sitting in the driver’s seat. In 2016, Uber started testing its own fleet of driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh.

Volvo also has been trialing self-driving technology, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles just announced it is joining BMW’s existing alliance with Intel, which has acquired the self-driving technology unit, Mobileye.

And in the not-so-distant future, you may be behind the wheel (or not!) of a driverless vehicle when renting a car. In June 2017, Waymo, an autonomous car development company spun out of Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., reached an agreement for Avis Budget Group Inc. to manage its fleet of driverless vehicles. Self-driving rental cars are a perfect solution for business travelers, who would no longer need to worry about getting lost in a foreign city.

As for flying cars? Well, Uber, Daimler (manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz) and Toyota are each backing their own plans to launch what are known as “vertical takeoff and landing personal air transport vehicles.” DeLorean Aerospace also is testing its own prototype and says it could have a real-size model up and flying by late 2018.

So what else could possibly come our way? Guess we need Spielberg to get cracking on a “Minority Report” sequel to find out.