Robots Take Charge in Running Japanese Hotel 2

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Sunday, July 19th, 2015
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Weird Hotel robot
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The English-speaking receptionist is a vicious-looking dinosaur and the one speaking Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes.

The English-speaking receptionist is a vicious-looking dinosaur and the one speaking Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes.

“If you want to check in, push one,” the dinosaur says. The visitor still has to punch a button on the desk and type in information on a touch panel screen.

From its front desk to the porter, which is an automated trolley, this hotel in southwestern Japan – aptly named the Weird Hotel – is “manned” almost entirely by robots to save on labour costs.

Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel as part of an amusement park, insists using robots is not a gimmick, but a serious effort to use technology and achieve efficiency.

Henn na Hotel, as it is called in Japanese, was shown to reporters on Wednesday, complete with robot demonstrations, ahead of its opening to the public on Friday.

Another feature of the hotel is the use of facial recognition technology, instead of the standard electronic keys, by registering the digital image of the guest’s face during check-in.

The reason? Robots aren’t good at finding keys if people happen to lose them.

Staying at Henn na Hotel starts at 9000 yen ($A100), a bargain for Japan, where a stay in one of the nicer hotels can easily cost twice or three times as much.

The concierge is a doll-like hairless robot with voice recognition that prattles breakfast and event information. It cannot call a cab or do other errands.

One area Henn na Hotel still relies on human beings is security.

Robots store customer’s luggage until room is ready for check-in

Robots store customer’s luggage until room is ready for check-in

The place is dotted with security cameras, and real people are watching everything through a monitor to make sure guests stay safe and no one makes off with one of the expensive robots.

“And they still can’t make beds,” said Sawada, who has also engineered the rise of a popular affordable Japanese travel agency.

He has big ambitions for his robot hotel concept and wants to open another one soon in Japan and later abroad. He is also eager to add other languages, such as Chinese and Korean, to the robots’ vocabulary.

In the hotel’s rooms, a lamp-sized robot in the shape of a fat pink tulip called Tuly answers simple questions like “What time is it?” and “What is the weather tomorrow?”

You can also tell it to turn the room lights on or off. There are no switches on the walls.

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2
  1. John Lourens

    Seriously, who as a hotel guest wants to be greeted by a robot, have to select options for themselves, have to provide intrusive biometric data just to get a room, and have people watching their every move through a control room – not to mention being left to their own devices if they need to ask a question or have a problem?

    Personal service is a source of competitive advantage in a hotel – it can't be done via a robot.

    This is a trash idea and should be treated as such. Hopefully, more effort at innovation is directed toward ideas which actually have merit, not this rubbish.

  2. Molly

    I would rather stay in the Bates Motel than any lodgings staffed by these freakish contraption.