Robot-run hotels are already here. But will they become the norm in years to come? Let’s take a closer look to find out.
Robot hotels that already exist
Robots have been slowly taking over in Japan for some time now. There’s a humanoid robot in a branch of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, robots are selling coffee makers in stores across Japan, and the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation has robot tour guides. With casinos due to open in Japan for the first time soon, perhaps there will even be robot croupiers. In the meantime, people who enjoy playing casino games like blackjack and roulette can play online at カスモ カジノ (Casumo casino). With so many different establishments making use of robots in Japan, it should come as little surprise to learn that the country has a hotel staffed by robots. The Henn na Hotel in Nagasaki has a robotic dinosaur manning the front desk, various humanoid multilingual robots to handle customer queries, porter robots to carry luggage, and a robot that controls the heating and lighting of the rooms. The hotel also uses facial recognition technology for guests to unlock room doors.
But hotels with robot staff do not only exist in Japan. They are beginning to become more widespread in various countries across the world. Robots are particularly becoming more popular at hotels in the United States. For instance, in 2016, Hilton partnered with IBM to create a resident robot called Connie, named after Hilton’s founder. The concierge robot at the Virginia hotel can inform guests about things like nearby attractions and restaurants. It is powered by Watson, IBM’s AI supercomputer. Meanwhile, in New York, Yotel hotel uses a robotic porter called Yobot to automatically handle guests’ luggage. Another example is the Crowne Plaza in San Jose, which uses a fast robot called Dash to deliver things like snacks and towels.
Robot-run hotels have a long way to go before they become the norm
It might sound like robot-run hotels are already starting to become the norm and will continue to become more popular in the coming years. However, that’s not necessarily the case. While robot-run hotels might sound like a promising future, hotels like Japan’s Henn na Hotel have not been as successful as we have been led to believe. In 2019, it was reported that the Henn na Hotel had cut its 243-robotic workforce by half after it failed to reduce the costs and workloads of human employees. Although the hotel is still maintaining many of its robots, they’ll be used more in customer service roles. When you hear the comments of people who have actually stayed at the Henn na Hotel, you’ll see that the robots were not quite as intelligent and helpful as presumed. For example, guests reported robots would regularly break down. Other guests complained that robot room assistants interpreted snoring sounds as instructions and would repeatedly wake up guests during the night trying to deliver requests.
What does the future look like?
Despite the problems at the Japanese robot-run hotel, robots will certainly become more widespread in hotels in the future. But they may be limited to certain jobs. As artificial intelligence develops, having robots that use facial recognition at reception will probably become more the norm. AI will also help to provide rooms based on people’s personal preferences. Self-driven cars could also replace human valet services, and robots are likely to be utilized for cleaning and maintenance purposes. Robot staff members will also be able to assist in hotel security infrastructure. So, while hotels that are 100% run by robots look to be a far way off, you’re sure to notice robots being introduced into hotels more and more in the coming years.