Santander’s HQ: High-Tech Wonderland with Robotic Butlers

It’s called Santander City. This sprawling corporate HQ for one of Europe’s biggest banks is a visually stunning concept integrating advanced robotics, interactive design and LED-based art murals.

Santander City’s “El Faro” Visitors Center, is the gateway to Santander Group’s financial complex. The center is a creative mix of advanced robotics, hi-res LED paneled columns and interactive interface design that offer engaging ways to explore the group’s history and global presence. Visitors to the center can interact with information about the banking group, money markets and even the campus itself.

Robotic Butlers

The most amazing aspect of the facility are the Santander Interactive Guest Assistants (SiGA for short), little red robots using GPS technology to guide visitors around the campus. The knee-high robots are a little shorter than R2D2, but like the stumpy Star Wars droid, they are fluent in multiple languages.

“When the visitor arrives, they find a touch screen console where they can choose a language and their destination — a meeting room, the auditorium or the exit to the bus station,” says João Serpa, Project Manager with Ydreams, the design firm that gave Santander City its unique flair.

“It’s Santander’s very own family of robotic butlers,” adds Luís Carvalho, Ydreams Operations Director.

“This is probably the first application that uses ‘swarm robotics’ in a commercial context,” notes Luís Vargas, an Industrial Designer with Ydreams. “We’ve developed a set of robots that function in a crowded space — 24/7, 365 days a year.”

Augmented Reality Model

Ydreams built a huge architectural model of the Santander’s campus. They translated the model into 3D space, then used augmented reality technology to superimpose an additional layer of digital information. Visitors can scroll any one of four touch-screens across the diorama to explore points of interest and architectural details.

“The main idea is that these four screens look like they’re transparent,” Vargas explains.

The Wall

Inside Santander City’s Visitor Center, Ydreams had a huge wall — a huge opportunity to do something dramatic. They created a massive motion-sensing video wall out of touch-screens.

“The main feature we wanted this wall to have was the ability to function on different stages depending on the user’s distance to the wall itself,” Leonel Duarte, Ydreams Creative Director, says. “The application is aware of what’s around and can react and adapt itself to different conditions.”

Santander has over $1 trillion in assets, 90 million customers, 11,178 branches and 130,000 employees. Retail banking — the main aspect of Santander’s operations — generates 82% of the group’s profit.

There is a marked difference between the new HQ and the old, historic one in the bank’s founding city.

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