Virtual birds and robot valets at Incheon Airport

South Korea tops the 2019 Bloomberg Innovation Index, so it’s no surprise that Incheon Airport is beautifully modern and high-tech.

As an experiential graphic design studio, BrandCulture is interested in how people experience complex built environments. Airports are a good example: they can be ridiculously stressful if you’re running late, or intensely boring if your flight is cancelled.

Experiential graphic design makes all the difference. It can impact how quickly you find your gate, alleviating stress, or it can delight you with experiences once you’ve checked-in and are ready to relax.

On a recent trip to South Korea, a leader when it comes to innovation, I stopped over at Incheon Airport in Seoul. It was a great example of how thoughtful design can enhance the experience of something as tedious as changing planes.

It’s really easy to find your way around Incheon as the wayfinding works beautifully. But what’s really lovely is the unexpected experiences you stumble upon en route to your departure gate.

Virtual birds and robot cafés

With an hour to spare between my connecting flight, I noticed an ‘IT Experience Zone’ and wandered inside. Minutes later I was strapped into a virtual reality flying game, soaring above virtual mountains and dodging virtual birds. There was also a robot café with a robot serving drinks, and some sort of immersive igloo screening 360-degree films inside its cosy walls.

Hanging from the airport’s roof, I noticed a curved, undulating screen. It was LG’s curvy OLED screen, which I first noticed when BrandCulture attended Integrate 2018, an audio-visual and integration trade show. The visuals were so vibrant and beautiful that I stopped to take photos.  It’s a hazard of working at BrandCulture – inevitably, you become the kind of person who stops to marvel at airport digital displays and media walls!

By 2023, Incheon plans to deploy 14 artificial intelligence robots at passenger terminals, automated parking valet robots, and check-in and boarding enabled by facial recognition technology. The airport also has its own ice skating rink, casino, golf course, spa, private sleeping rooms, indoor gardens, and Museum of Korean Culture.

I usually dread killing time in airports, but this was surprisingly fun. For anyone interested in how experiential graphic design can improve the experience of complex built environments, Incheon is a great place to stopover.

– Barbara Messer