Detroit’s new personalized flight information board is straight out of a sci-fi novel

Jul 16, 2022

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Delta Air Lines passengers at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) can now access innovative technology that seems straight out of a sci-fi novel.

The technology — which is appropriately named Parallel Reality — makes it possible for one giant digital screen in the terminal to display personalized travel itinerary details for up to 100 people at a time.

No one sees a big jumble of information, though. Instead, each person looking up at or walking by the screen sees a message addressing them by name, with their mileage program status, flight information and the estimated time it will take them to get to their gate.

“The technology does sound like science fiction,” said Albert Ng, CEO of Misapplied Sciences, the company that created the Parallel Reality product. However, after more than five years in what he described as “stealth mode,” the company worked out a propriety method of getting the pixels of a display board to send different content to each viewer.

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Delta passengers can opt in to the experience by scanning their boarding pass once they are through the security checkpoint in Concourse A of DTW’s McNamara Terminal. Customers enrolled in Delta’s biometric digital identity program need only show their faces to a camera at the kiosk.

Then, motion sensors installed in the terminal ceiling go into action.

Once a customer logs in, they are identified by the motion sensors as a specific moving object tied to a specific customer record. “And then the display knows to direct specific information to that moving object even as that object is moving around,” Ng said. “In this demo, as soon as you walk out of the viewing area of the display, the system forgets everything, and all of the data is purged.”

Passengers who don’t opt in to the Parallel Reality flight information display experience will see generic content and branded Delta messaging on the digital screen, which is 21 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet.

Delta first announced its partnership with Misapplied Sciences for the Parallel Reality flight information board back in 2020 at the Consumer Electronics Show, better known as CES. The launch of a beta display board experience at DTW was planned for that summer. Then, COVID-19 and the pandemic delayed the rollout by two years.

In operation since late June, the new high-tech, personalized FID is already generating positive feedback from passengers who think it’s a useful tool, Greg Forbes, Delta Air Lines’ managing director of airport experience, says. However, he does not see the Parallel Reality FID replacing all existing, general-purpose, flight display boards anytime soon.

“But we think in certain instances, where people are on the move, that they would be better served by being able to cut to the chase, see their information and have this convenience,” he said.


Forbes told TPG that Delta intends to leave the Parallel Reality FID in place “as long as it’s providing value” and that the carrier has a growing list of other spots in the airport where this technology could be beneficial.

“Specifically, we are looking at applications in the Delta Sky Club to make visits more personalized and in security checkpoints where mobile device use is not allowed,” Forbes said. “Even in its current form, I can think of other airports that would benefit from installing ‘super FIDs’ like we’ve put in Detroit.”

Of course, airports are not the only places where personalized Parallel Reality technology could be useful.

“While we are really excited to launch this in the airport scenario, the airport is just the start,” Ng said. “Parallel Reality has the ability to provide more seamless, magical, intuitive experiences for any out-of-home venue, such as shopping malls, stadiums, theme parks, hotels and even casinos.”

Featured photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines.

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