Gliding silently through Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's futuristic'FlyZoo' hotel, black disc-shaped robots about a metre in height deliver food and drop off fresh towels. The robots are part of a suite of high-tech tools that Alibaba says drastically cuts the hotel's cost of human labor and eliminates the need for guests to interact with other people. Formally opened to the public last month, the 290-room FlyZoo is an incubator for technology Alibaba wants to sell to the hotel industry in the future and an opportunity to showcase its prowess in artificial intelligence. It is also an experiment that tests consumer comfort levels with unmanned commerce in China - a country where intrusive data-sharing technology is readily tolerated and often met with enthusiasm. 'It's all about the efficiency of the service and the consistency of service, because the robots are not disturbed by human moods.
Holidaymakers will be guaranteed a room with an incredible view at these futuristic hotels, which would put guests in the sea, famous parks or even outer space. The stunning concepts are vying for top prize in an annual design competition that aims to flip the hospitality industry on its head. This year's finalists have proposed bean-shaped pods which can be flown to hard-to-reach locations using drone technology, and guest rooms on stilts in major cities such as New York or London. The hotel is made up of several modular units including bars, kitchens and courtyard pods. Designed by HOK's Toronto office, the hotel has modular units which use drone technology to fly (top right) to hard-to-reach locations Driftscape, one of two professional concepts up for the Radical Innovation Award, is a mobile, self-sustaining hotel that allows guests to roam or touch down in diverse locations such as the sea, desert or rice paddy fields.
Turns out, robots aren't the best at hospitality. After opening in a blaze of publicity in 2015, Japan's Henn na, or "Strange," Hotel, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's first robot hotel, is now laying off its low-performing droids. So far, the hotel has culled over half of its 243 robots, many because they created work rather than reduced it. "It's easier now that we're not being frequently called by guests to help with problems with the robots," said one staff member who has worked at the hotel for three years. Robots and other devices that could be useful to the hospitality industry were all over the CES consumer-technology show last week in Las Vegas.
Sundance film festival darling Drake Doremus' futuristic love story, Zoe, is one of the more anticipated titles of the year. According to Deadline, Amazon has acquired the exclusive rights to the movie, and will bring it to Prime Video this summer. Amazon has been pushing to get "bigger" movies lately in an effort to lure more people to Prime, and has been announcing a whole slate of sci-fi originals, including an upcoming series based on William Gibson's The Peripheral, Ian M. Banks' Consider Phlebas and the service's current Philip K. Dick-based Electric Dreams. In Zoe, Ewan McGregor and Léa Seydoux play co-workers at a research lab that designs tech to make romantic relationships better, says Deadline. As the couple's work continues, they find much more than they'd planned to.