Dubai Airport Is Replacing Security Booths With Face-Scanning Virtual Aquariums

These virtual tunnels will resemble a giant aquarium fitted with multiple cameras that scan the face while a passenger glances up at the bright sea-life.
Danielle  De La Bastide
Dubai International Airport Terminal 3Paolo Rosa/Flickr

Dubai is usually one of the first cities to find new and avant-garde ways of doing regular things. Now they’re adding a bit of flare to airport security by replacing facial recognition booths with virtual aquariums.

Airport security technologies have evolved to e-gates and facial recognition software intended to cut waiting times and make the intense experience before boarding a flight, a bit easier. The Dubai International Airport wants to take this ease a tad further.

Now, travelers will merely walk through a virtual aquarium tunnel that will scan their face and iris using up to eighty hidden cameras. It’s not confirmed whether there will be a separate scanner for a suitcase but a video shared on Al Bayan News’ Twitter shows a passenger walking through with luggage.

At the exit to the tunnel, a green light indicates whether the traveler passed the test with a message “Have a nice trip.” However, a red light will alert officials to step in and do a more thorough search.

“The fish is a sort of entertainment and something new for the traveller but, at the end of the day, it attracts the vision of the travellers 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.

Dubai Airport Is Replacing Security Booths With Face-Scanning Virtual Aquariums
The National reporter Nick Webster takes a look at the airport security tunnel. Source: The National

For modern facial-recognition systems need different perspectives of a person’s face in order to make an accurate match, this method featuring virtual fish swimming in multiple directions will entice the human gaze to jump all over.

The graphics in the tunnel display can also be adapted to different tastes, offering other natural scenes, such as the desert or even advertising. These “virtual borders” will be installed into Terminal 3 of Dubai International Airport by the end of summer 2018, then in phases up until 2020.


Those traveling will be required to register their face scans at kiosks all over the airport before moving through the process. The hope is that this new procedure will cut down time spent in security for the millions of passengers passing through DIA, with numbers expecting to reach 120 million by 2020.

“This will also benefit stakeholders; now the traveler can spend more time shopping at duty-free, or avoid missing their flight due to long queues,” continued Al Hameeri.

The tunnels won’t be the only addition to security at the Middle Eastern hub which sees up to US$25 billion pass through its gates each year. Rabie Atieh, vice president of Emirates Group Security, noted that new devices are being tested and installed to keep up with the threat of terrorism.

“There are measures to increase inspections; there are new Chinese devices that detect things that were not detected by earlier devices, like explosives… and there are many new measures with regards to combatting terrorism,” he said. “Every year there are new challenges. We try to anticipate and face a threat before it happens.”