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Robots take positions at international hotels

The progress of household robotics is evident in the hotel industry and the brand Crowne Plaza has just presented its new robot employee, just a year after the arrival of ALO at Aloft. Cyber-employees have new roles in the industry, and may even welcome guests at reception.

Soon clients will cease being surprised to speak to a robot at hotels, while cyber employees are increasingly present in the sector. The InterContinental group has just announced it will implement Dash at its Crowne Plaza San Jose-Silicon Valley hotel. It will be its first robot serving customers. Developed by the company Savioke, it now delivers room service, welcome products and other items requested by guests. Dash operates by WiFi and was created to walk at a human pace and navigate the 300-room hotel's hallways independently, and even call the elevator. Currently in a trial period at the California hotel, it could eventually be rolled out to other Crowne Plaza properties.

But Dash is not the only robot working successfully at hotels. One year ago the brand Aloft by Starwood Hotels & Resorts put its latest innovation to the test: A.L.O. the Botlr. The employee-robot, also developed by the firm Savioke, had taken charge of customer services in both front and back office at the hotel Aloft Cupertino also located in Silicon Valley. While the robots at Aloft and Crowne Plaza appear very similar in terms of both aesthetics and functions, other models have found uses at hotels in recent years as well.

Within the group Marriott International, for example, cyber employees are in the forefront. A humanoid robot was thus positioned at reception at the Ghent Marriott Hotel in Belgium  to welcome clientèle, provide keys, call a taxi, and even bring businessmen to seminar meeting rooms. Its name is Mario, and it is a 48-centimeter-tall, 12-kilo robot that speaks 19 languages and has two cameras as well as facial recognition software and is able to store a customers' face for about six months. 15,000 euros of investments were necessary to make Mario work.

Mario is surely a distant cousin of Nao, the robot by the Parisian start-up Aldebaran Robotic which is also responsible for welcoming clients at the Henn-Na Hotel in Japan. The property, which just opened, goes even further in the robotization of hotel services as it has turned all of its reception over to multilingual humanoid robots with sometimes surprising appearances. In addition to reception, the androids carry baggages, clean the hotel's 74 rooms and provide room service. A dozen human employees have nonetheless been hired to complement the work of the machines and provide their maintenance, but they represent only 10% of the property's staff.

While it has received a lot of press coverage, the Henn-Na hotel in nonetheless not the first property to use mostly robots for its operations. In China, the Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel has used androids since 2013, from porters to waiters and receptionists. Guests may communicate with them using tactile tablets to place their order or request information.

While the use of robots at hotels remains more of a marketing ploy than a real part of corporate organization, the automation of tools and the progress of robotics could easily earn them a more important role in the sector. However, care must be taken to avoid dehumanizing customer relations and standardizing the hotel experience.

Also read:

  • Robots to welcome guests at a Japanese hotel
  • Aloft appoints A.L.O: a robot as butler in Cupertino hotel

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