A London borough is using a virtual employee to greet visitors to its new civic center, claiming it is cheaper than a human worker.
The London borough of Brent has a new two-dimensional employee. The local government have spent £12,000 (almost $19,000) on Shanice, a hologram greeter who will welcome guests and answer questions at the borough’s new civic center, thereby replacing their human receptionist.
The Council (local government body) decided on the investment because it claims it will be cheaper than hiring an actual person. While Shanice may only cost £12,000 (£17,000 less than a receptionist’s salary says the Council), the cost of reprogramming and maintenance may end up being more.
The question remains: will people be satisfied with a hologram answering questions? Shanice is preprogrammed with answers to typical questions such as directions to different departments and also has a touchscreen function for more detailed requests, but opposition believe it to be a waste of resources. Alison Hopkins, budget and finance spokeswoman for the opposition Lib Dems, told the Evening Standard:
There have been complaints about signage in Brent’s new civic centre but this is a startlingly expensive way of solving the problem. As the council admits, Shanice can’t respond even to basic questions but is limited to a small number of pre-recorded scripts. I hope she has been told one of the commonest questions is: Where are the toilets?’