EMIEW: The Tiny Japanese Robot That Will Help You Around The Airport


If you happen to fly a lot, you may begin to notice the addition of some helpful and not so helpful robots in airport terminals by EMIEW. In Switzerland’s Geneva Airport there is ‘Leo’ the helpful robot that allows you to check in to your flight and will take your luggage directly to the plane. In Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport you can get help finding your gate with ‘Spencer’ the moving television screen with a head and a stoic expression. And in the Indianapolis International Airport someone in HR stuck an iPad to a segway and is touring around the terminal looking for people to greet and assist. The most charming part about this particular robot, is that it wears a polo shirt.

However, all these airport robots are about to be blown out of the water by the EMIEW 3, a 90-cm tall robot developed by Hitachi that is designed to assist tourists as they travel through Tokyo’s Haneda international airport. EMIEW stands for Excellent Mobility and Interactive Existence as Workmate and it can understand English and Japanese. EMIEW is meant to be a friendly guide that can help tourists find their gate, a place to purchase a souvenir or locate a bathroom. The difference between this little robot and the others, is that it operates and communicates through human speech. EMIEW must understand slang and other colloquialisms to be able to offer sufficient help and direction.

Using what Hitachi calls a ‘remote brain’, EMIEW uses built-in sensors to work with external monitoring technology like security cameras to give the little robot adequate information about its surroundings. This cloud-based system also enables multiple EMIEW robots to cooperate with each other. In a demonstration lead by the Haneda airport, two EMIEW robots work together to guide an english speaking tourist to a gift shop.

The EMIEW robot has been slowly developing over the last 11 years at Hitachi. The first release being in 2005 with the original EMIEW, then EMIEW 2 in 2007 and now finally EMIEW 3. The original EMIEW had wheels, and looked a bit different from the EMIEW 3 in color and attitude. However, since the beginning the robots have been meant to interact with humans, it is just a matter of the technology catching up.

“I want to be able to walk about in places like Shinjuku and Shibuya in the future without bumping into people and cars.” – EMIEW 1


EMIEW 3 can travel at a speed of 3.7 mph, which is just a bit faster than the ‘Spencer’ bot mentioned earlier. Onlookers have mentioned that the robots are a bit slow, but that should be an easily corrected problem once the Haneda airport testing has finished.

This trail will be completed by December 2016 and will be strictly focused (at least at first) on the airports domestic Terminal 2. The senior vice president at Hitachi is hoping to add other languages to the EMIEW as well, like Chinese and Korean.

“We are hoping to use EMIEW3 to assist efforts to extend hospitality at Haneda airport through our trial runs,” – Hiroshi Sato, Senior VP & executive officer at Hitachi

EMIEW is just stretching its legs and getting out into the world with real live people. Once the trials are done and the data has been collected, it is possible the EMIEW will evolve and change with the new information. Robots are starting to become a part of our lives, in some ways more successful than others, but the information gained from EMIEW’s first steps and interactions will be part of what shapes our relationships with this type of service AI in the future.

Have anything to add to this story? Let us know in the comments.

BitNavi is a blog conceived by Karl Motey in the heart of Silicon Valley, dedicated to emerging technologies and strategic business issues challenging the industry.

Kaya Lindsay is a local Santa Cruz contributor who spends her time globetrotting, surfing the web, and writing for the BitNavi team.

Follow her on Twitter: @KayaSays

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