LAS VEGAS -- Today you arrive at the airport and there’s a big display that shows dozens of flights with their status. But what if that screen showed only your flight, your name and your gate and an arrow showing you where to go?
Does that sound rude to everyone else? Don’t worry. Everyone else around you will also only see personalized info on the same display at the same time. Without augmented reality glasses or holding up your smartphone to the screen. Really.
That’s the promise of Parallel Reality, a beta experience Delta Air Lines is bringing to customers this year in partnership with Misapplied Sciences. I got a demo of this technology in action here at CES 2020, and it’s the most mind-blowing thing I’ve experienced in years.
100 people. One screen. Personalized messages. What?
Our demo started with us standing in front of a screen with little statues of landmarks in front of us. And the other people around me saw pictures of different destinations than I did on the screen that corresponded with those cities, such as Paris or Tokyo.
I can’t stress this enough. The person standing next to me saw something different than I did even though we were looking at the same display. Delta says that when the technology is rolled out that up to 100 travelers will be able to view personalized content on screen at a given time.
After that it was time to check in to my virtual flight to Paris. After scanning my boarding pass, cameras above me detected my body shape and displayed a message about my flight:
“Hello Mark! Your flight to Paris is on time at Gate A9, boarding in 30 min at 12:06 PM.” And the woman next to me saw here own message.
Delta then showed me the message I would see after I landed:
“Welcome to Paris, Mark! Pick up you luggage at Baggage Carousel 9.”
How Parallel Reality works
I’m not really sure how the technology works, but Delta and Misapplied Sciences describe Parallel Reality as leveraging “multi-view pixels and proprietary technology” to deliver messages explicitly for them as they walk past the screen.
A critical element of Parallel Reality is that the system needs to know your location to deliver personalized messages. And while Delta used cameras in this case and my body shape, it could decide to use other markers, such as facial recognition or your phone.
According to Delta Chief Operating Officer Gil West, customers will be able to opt in to Parallel Reality and that customer information will not be stored.
When can you experience it?
So when can you experience Parallel Reality? Delta will first roll it out in the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The display will be near the Delta Sky Club in Concourse A.
Delta isn’t deploying Parallel Reality just to show off. It’s about trying to ease the stress on travelers. But it’s also frickin’ magical to see in action.
Be sure to check out our CES 2020 hub for all of the biggest announcements at the world's largest tech event.
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Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.