A London council has replaced a human receptionist with a holographic image, a move the council said will save money that could be better spent.
‘Shanice’ will greet and offer help to visitors to Brent Council’s Civic Hall and cost £12,000 to implement.
The hologram is played by actress Shanice Stewart-Jones and despite a limited set of pre-programmed interactions, ‘Shanice’ can tell visitors where to register a birth or death or where the register office is for marriages and other common enquires.
According to council officials, as visitors enter the Brent Council Civic Hall, they will see ‘Shanice’ sitting behind a desk “just like a real receptionist, but on closer inspection she’s actually projected onto a see-through screen”.
Human interaction with ‘Shanice’ is not by voice but through a touch-screen interface.
However, criticism has come in concerning the limited number of responses currently programmed into the hologram and also that the system works only in English.
Alison Hopkins, a Liberal Democratic councilor has labeled the idea as “silly” and will become “unfit of purpose” rapidly. She added that the hologram was another barrier to human contact with the council.
Hopkins went on to state that an ordinary tablet computer, with a choice of languages, would have been more appropriate. Alternatively, hiring a young person would have been a better use for the money.
In the council’s defence, Mark Rimmer said that the hologram does not replace a person but it is like “having a proper receptionist saying the same thing time after time”. He explained that people do not read the signs around the building and need directing.
Furthermore, hiring a physical employee would cost the council £30,000 a year. Rimmer said that the hologram is capable of being programmed to work in several languages.