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At Last! A Hotel Robot That Actually Seems Pretty Useful

August 12, 2014 at 10:34 AM | by | Comments (0)

The practice of using robots in hotels is rare but not new.

We came across a space-themed capsule hotel in China entirely staffed by robots. Way back in 2006, a Sheraton Hotel in Japan unleashed some robots to greet guests. The Hotel @ MIT has a robot on display and of course, we cannot forget about the Yotel luggage robot in Times Square. Yet while these were all innovative additions, with the exception of the Yobot, these hotel robots really didn't fulfill a service need for guests. Until now.

The NY Times reports that the Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, across from Apple's headquarters, will start using a Botlr Robot by Silicon Valley start-up Savioke on August 20. (Follow the adventure on social media with the hashtag #MeetBotlr.)

The Botlr's mission is simple. It "will shuttle items from the hotel lobby desk to guest rooms." So let's say you've just got settled into room and have changed into your pajamas when you realize that you've forgotten a toothbrush. Instead of going back downstairs or calling housekeeping and waiting forever to have a toothbrush delivered, the Botlr will bring it up to you. Here's how Botlr does what it does:

It would not generate a second glance if it were stationary in a hotel lobby. But on the move, it can reach speeds of up to four miles per hour. That’s about the pace of a brisk walk, and adequate for Botlr to hustle razors, toothbrushes, smartphone chargers, snacks and even the morning paper to any of the hotel’s 150 rooms in two to three minutes.

When the robot reaches the guest’s door, the system calls the room, alerting the guest to the delivery.

The robot, which has a camera and other sensors, can recognize that the room door has been opened and then lift the lid on the storage bin that holds the delivery. A flat panel display at the top of the robot is used for the guest to enter a “review” rather than giving a tip. In return for a positive review, the robot will do a small dance before it departs.

We think this is an awesome service, especially for a limited to no-service brand like Aloft Hotels as well as brands that target business travelers who don't want to be bothered by nosy staff. But of course, this wouldn't work at high-end luxury brand like Peninsula Hotels or Waldorf-Astoria where guests expect staff to wait on them at all times. Unless...the hotels give every guest a Botlr upon checking-in. Now, that would be genius.

[Photo: Peter DaSilva/NY Times]

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