The next time you call room service for extra towels, your order may be delivered by a robot. It might not be able to change your sheets, but Savioke's Relay hospitality robot can bring everything from toothpaste to Starbucks, and it uses Wi-Fi and 3D cameras to navigate. The robot is already being used by some hotels in the US, and with recent funding of $15 million, autonomous butlers could soon become a lot more popular. The next time you call room service for a new tube of toothpaste, your order may be delivered by a robot. It might not be able to change your sheets, but Savioke's Relay hospitality robot can bring everything from clean towels to Starbucks, and it uses Wi-Fi and 3D cameras to navigate Each of the Relay robots stands roughly three feet tall.
Last year at CES, LG introduced a bunch of new robots because, as near as we could tell, LG figured that robots were cool so they'd better make some robots or something. The most photogenic (and smallest) was Hub, which bore a striking resemblance to Jibo, but we also met two burly service robots designed to work at airports. For CES 2018, LG is adding three more robots to the CLOi (that's pronounced KLOH-ee, obviously) family. New this year are the Serving Robot, Porter Robot, and Shopping Cart Robot, "developed for commercial use at hotels, airports, and supermarkets," and it's definitely not a coincidence that they're just in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where LG is also based.
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.
A boutique hotel that opened this month near Los Angeles International Airport has already put two robots to work while a 288-room hotel in San Gabriel plans to employ eight robots when it opens in January. The latest automated additions come a year after a Santa Clara, Calif., company called Savioke put 12 robots in hotels across the country, including one named Wally at the Residence Inn by Marriott near LAX. "Robots are the next wave of hospitality technology and we believe our overnight guests and those in the local San Gabriel community will find the robots to be intriguing and fun," said Wanda Chan, general manager of the Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel. Less than half a mile away from the Residence Inn that deployed a robot last year, the new dual-branded Homewood Suite/H Hotel that opened in October has added two robotic butlers, both named Hannah, also developed and programmed by Savioke. The good news for guests is that the robots don't accept tips.
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.