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Robots are Happy to Help – Latest High Tech Hotel in Japan


Recent studies revealed that anything between 40% to 60% of human jobs would be replaced by Robot.  Rather depressing but the upside is that people will have a lot of time to do something for fun, for example, travelling.  So, what does the future travel look like?

“Henna-Hotel” in Nagasaki Japan

It opened in July 2015 in the resort complex called Huis Ten Bosch.  This hotel, the name has been translated as “Weird Hotel” wrongly (real intention be revealed at the end), is staffed 70% by robots.  The base motive of this project is the reduction of cost, just a boring business decision.  It provides a mid-price range accommodation option as others are more luxury resort hotels.

The personnel cost was reduced by 30%, and the bigger savings come from energy cost by using the latest material and management technology.  The CEO boasts their ambition to achieve to become the most efficient hotel in the world.  But the biggest catch is, of course, robots who serve there.

Robots Welcomes Guests

First thing you see after greeted by Tulip shaped mascot, is the long robot arm surrounded by lockers.  The guests just need to insert the luggage through an entry window; then the arms will put it in the secure box.  At the reception, three different robots greet the guests.  One is typical robot type, another is woman bot and finally, a dinosaur.  Some managements opposed to Dinosaur receptionist, but it went ahead and why not.  They all can speak four languages.  Though It certainly is novelty fun, they can only greet and request what to do to check in, not yet capable of answering questions.  The ambition is to go further towards more spontaneous interaction, but it is for the future.

The security system uses face recognition, so no keys are issued.  It is convenient for the guests and eliminates the need for human intervention for trouble shooting, such as lost keys.  Sensor operated robot porter carries your luggage to your room.

There are no amenities in the room, but the guests can purchase from the vending machine in the corridor.  In Japan, it is standard to find soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, razor, and Yukata nightgown as part of hospitality.  But here you find none.  No fridge, no electric kettle.  It seems all the potential hazards may have been removed.  With the abundance of incredible offers outside the hotel but in the resort, there is the only café with good old vending machines selling snacks and drinks.  Breakfast is served in the nearby restaurant.

But to brighten up the atmosphere in the room, Tulip shaped dolly robot, Tullie, is there in every room.  She controls the lightings, answers some general questions – weather for example, and set an alarm clock.  But for now, the response is so slow and inaccurate that it is amusing and cute.  And children love it.  For these inpatient adults, you can do all these through bedside tablet.

By this time, you cannot help noticing the lack of human being, well, which is the point.  But not to worry as hotel’s public spaces are monitored by CCTV, 24 hours.  If there is any emergency, staff (human) will act on it.




Robots Come in Different Shapes and Go FAR

The second of the franchise is now open at Maihama station, near Tokyo Disney Resort.  It has nothing to do with the resort itself, but the choice of location is interesting.  The management plays down the particular choice, but it is spot on, with the user profile of the first franchise.  The ultimate target is to build hundreds of this type of hotels around the world.

Henna Hotel has been translated as Weird Hotel, but the actual meaning/intention is Changing Hotel, or Hotel that Initiates Change.  The opening events are filled with drones, robots, and the latest technologies.  It is certainly entertaining, and they are programmed to serve and entertain.

Japanese people are relatively used to human shaped robots through Manga and Anime (such as Astro Boy, Doraemon – 2020 Olympics official character, Dr.Slump & Arale-chan to name a few), and very easy about being served and accompanied by them.  CCTV is thought to be a good thing for security.  It is quite a different story outside Japan, so Changing Hotel will need to see how to adapt to the local reaction when spreading further afield, and make adjustments.

Already, the latest website shows a lady robot and two dinosaurs at the reception.  Dinosaurs, after all, may be the universally acceptable face of hospitality.


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