Avatar officer installed at Arizona-Mexico border station

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is installing a virtual, kiosk-based border patrol officer in Nogales, Arizona. According to Scientific American, this avatar is currently being tested in order “to streamline applications for frequent traveler benefits, freeing up human officers to catch drug smugglers.”


This new kiosk was developed at the University of Arizona, and is undergoing tests to determine its potential to help enroll applicants in its Trusted Traveler Programs at the Mexican border. Applicants for Trusted Traveler Programs must undergo a thorough background check against various  government databases, and must also submit biometric fingerprint checks and an interview with a CBP officer. However, once pre-approved, low-risk travelers can utilize special lanes and kiosks that will expedite the travel process. The virtual, kiosk interview will not replace interactions with real border patrol officers, but will render follow-up interviews more efficient by first administering a preliminary interview. Researchers hope that eventually the Nogales pilot test will include more than 1,000 interviews. After the kiosk’s performance is analyzed, a feature may be added to enable interviewees to scan their passports and other documents into the device.

If successful, these kiosks will allow real officers to focus more time and energy on catching drug smugglers. According to Border Patrol agents from the Nogales Station,  more than 80 kilograms of hard narcotics were seized from two Mexican men in March. Less than two months later, CBP arrested a 43-year-old Mexican national in a wheelchair at Nogales Station for attempting to smuggle more than three kilograms of cocaine into the U.S. in the wheelchair seat.

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