This Airport Is Swapping Traditional Security Checks With a Virtual Aquarium

Unless you’re PreCheck-approved, there are a few inevitabilities that you can’t escape when flying: You’ll likely have to maneuver your way through a pileup of plastic bins, stand (shoe-less) on a long security line, and endure an uncomfortable pat-down. But now there’s something fishy -- literally -- happening at Dubai International Airport that’s changing this slog altogether.  

Dubai International Airport has developed a new tunnel-shaped virtual aquarium in lieu of the traditional security check-in process. As passengers in-transit walk through the tunnel and admire the colorful fish swimming around, 80 built-in cameras will snap photos of them, biometrically scan their faces, and detect their identities, according to The National. On the other side, passengers will either be prompted to move on (via a green “have a nice trip” sign) or stopped for further security screening (via a red alert).

Dubai International Airport; Takahiro Hayashi/Flickr

Dubai International Airport; Takahiro Hayashi/Flickr

Prior to passing through the tunnel, travelers will be required to register their faces using one of the 3-D kiosks located around the airport. There’s no word on whether luggage will be scanned within the tunnel. “The fish is a sort of entertainment and something new for the traveler but, at the end of the day, it attracts the vision of the travelers to different corners in the tunnel for the cameras to capture his/her face print,” Major Gen Obaid Al Hameeri, deputy director general of Dubai residency and foreign affairs, told The National. Plans to eventually introduce iris scanners, in addition to face scans, are also in the works. 

Furthermore, the fish scene isn’t the only thing the airport is cooking up -- the tunnel can be altered to display other virtual environments, such as a desert, or showcase advertisements. While aesthetically pleasing, the implementation of this high-tech feature is aimed at speeding up the security process. After all, Dubai is the world’s busiest airport in terms of international passenger traffic, with more than 80 million travelers passing through it last year, according to The Telegraph

It’s worth noting that facial recognition is already increasingly used at airports for security purposes, according to The Verge. For example, Delta Air Lines uses the technology to speed up bag drops. Of course privacy concerns over the technology’s spread and impact is an issue. But the first aquatic tunnel is slated to be installed at Terminal 3 by the end of summer 2018, with plans to roll out more at other Dubai terminals by 2020.

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