Hotel bars are great places for people watching, seldom places for engaging conversation. I recently found myself sitting atop a tall stool in a city far from home, deep in conversation with a woman, like me, traveling for work. She, a hospitality professional in town to train a new cohort of hotel associates; me, in town for a tech conference. So, naturally, our conversation landed on the intersection of our specialities--the increasing use of technology in the hospitality industry. "I don't think the hospitality industry will become overtaken by technology--people want a human touch when they're traveling," I said confidently, and perhaps naively, to my newfound friend.
Savioke's Relay bots have already taken on customer-service duties as Dash at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (Image courtesy Savioke). One of San Francisco's newest skyscrapers is wooing high-end residents with the kind of convenience and top-shelf technology that brought them there in the first place--robotic servants included. The luxury residence Jasper promises residents an unparalleled experience with those difference-making extra touches, such as scotch tastings, touch screens, and on-demand service by Savioke Relay robots. According to CNBC, the property also "seems to embody all that the city's long-standing residents hate, [aims] to offer everything its young tech and finance workers might crave, [and] looks and feels like a luxury hotel during a perpetual spring break." The new building's planned amenities offer big-city luxuries and culture for residents to enjoy within the comfort, and privacy, of an exclusive home base (Image courtesy Crescent Heights via Jasper brochure).
IN A recent blog post, Gulliver expressed his exasperation at having to interact with other humans when he stayed at hotels. After all, in the age of mobile check-in and automated bartenders, it must be possible to swerve most of these pointless encounters (and avoid having to hand over tips for the most mundane services, such as pouring a beer or being shown to your room). One solution that didn't occur to him was robot butlers. The M Social Singapore hotel is introducing a droid that can deliver room service to guests. It navigates using 3D cameras and can negotiate lifts and manoeuvre around people wandering down the corridors.
It has mood lighting, touch screens, and chirps as it wheels along hotel hallways, delivering Cheetos, Kraft Mac and Cheese, and hairspray to guests. There are only a handful of Relays deployed in several Silicon Valley hotels right now. But Intel Corp., which invested in the robot's maker, Savioke Inc., thinks the future will be full of such helpers. Underneath Relay's curvy exterior is artificial intelligence software that allows it to use cameras and other sensors to independently navigate through the hotel without running anyone over. Being aware of what's going around them is crucial if robots are going to transition from cages on factory floors to hotels, homes and other places where they could easily hurt humans.