What are the most important innovations in this area? What kind of robotic services should we expect from the hotels of the future? We've tried to find out for you.
If robots are actually going to replace us, as expected by so much science fiction, it is likely that they will start in the hotel industry: according to the magazine Hospitality Tech, 22% of hotels specifically asked for a study on the subject said they were very interested in the implementation of robotic assistants, within their facilities, especially as the investment required does not seem to exceed £ 30,000 per machine.
And even before that, in 2013 the Chinese hotel Pengheng Space Capsules, located in the Bao'an district of Shenzhen, had been among the forerunners in the use of robots for less qualified and more repetitive tasks - such as reception, security and room service - with a considerable reduction in costs and therefore in the prices charged to customers, and a consequent push to the artificial intelligence market. The extremely reduced accommodation, not surprisingly called "capsules", minimalist and futuristic at the same time, cost about 70 yuan, just over £ 7 per day.
Far from wanting to completely eliminate the human presence, the tendency seems to be that of reducing it and, if anything, specializing it in tasks that are recognized as more valuable.
A butler robot
The same robot - whose name was initially supposed to be Relay - is also used at the Crowne Plaza San Jose Hotel, in the InterContinental chain, where it takes the name of Dash but maintains almost the same tasks: in its height of about 45 kg, it moves at a walking pace to essentially deliver to guests in the hotel's three hundred rooms, avoiding obstacles and calling lifts via Wi-Fi - although it is able to move independently, based on a pre-generated map, eliminating the problems of Wi-Fi or LTE signal loss.
From this year, for example, robots will have the ability to patrol a hotel to search for areas with poor Wi-Fi reception and report it directly to IT, in an effort to address one of the most frequent complaints from guests. And - a much more difficult challenge - Savioke is working to equip his robotic assistants also with a "mingle" function, thanks to which they will be able to interact with the guests telling jokes and making jokes.
The collaboration between Hilton and IBM has, instead, led to the design of Connie, a version of the Nao robot that is more intelligent than the humanoid created in 2004 by the French company Aldebaran Robotics and now acquired by the Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank Group Corporation. So named in honor of founder Conrad Hilton, it has undergone the implementation of Watson's software, which improves its ability to understand human language, and an Internet connection that makes it capable of interfacing with the WayBlazer travel platform.
For the moment it is still unthinkable that these robots can completely replace their human colleagues but, since they are able to adapt and improve their performance through a kind of real learning, it seems rather close to the possibility that they can do independently at least check in and check out.
Technology recognizes us
Used not only for room deliveries, automatic check-out, porterage services, cleaning and reception management, these robots are also equipped with an innovative facial recognition system that allows guests to enter and exit their room without the need for keys, to leave them the independent management of lighting, and the reorganization of the wardrobe, thanks to the presence of a robotic arm that is able to place the personal belongings of customers in boxes.
In the rooms of the Urayasu headquarters, among other things, there is also Tapia, the personal robotic assistant designed by MJI Robotics and able to connect to various other devices, to give information or remember appointments.
Starting from Easter 2018, an anthropomorphic robot will welcome guests at the Parc Hotel in Peschiera, on Lake Garda. Bepi Pepper, this is probably the name he will be given, will be behind the reception desk, perfectly able to check in, recognise customers, answer their questions and provide information. The android, produced by Aldebaran Robotics for Softbank, was designed to have remarkable guest interaction capabilities, also thanks to the fruitful collaboration with IBM and its Watson artificial intelligence software.
Meanwhile, the world of wellness and fitness is also pursuing an increasingly automated path for physical training. More and more efficient and innovative solutions that will allow personalized and customized experiences. Imagine a tool that adapts to the measurements and needs of your body, just a moment before you start the exercise....
Of course, the inevitable diversion of a large part of human resources towards more complex, gratifying and interrelated tasks seems, in turn, to be destined, just like technological progress, to increase the added value of every hotel structure.