Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Checking into the robot hotel

What is the first obvious sign of a robotics revolution? When they start running our hotels, of course.

There is a hotel in Japan that will be staffed by robots. Called Henn-Na Hotel, which NBC News reports is translated into English as simply "Strange Hotel," the lodgings will open in July and feature three different "actroids." These are robots that the management says will act as receptionists and will be capable of holding full-on conversations with guests. Other robots will serve the roles of porters and bellhops, carrying guests' luggage to their rooms while others still will be assigned housekeeping and maintenance duties. I looked at the hotel website but I couldn't really get a clear view of the robots.

A bit more surprising is the bold claim by Huis Ten Bosch, the corporation that owns the hotel. They state that they want 90% of the hotel's services to eventually be provided by robots. I know that we're quite concerned these days about how many jobs are going to be replaced by robots, but this might work out just fine. Think about it, all you fellow introverts. You're checking into a hotel and you have to make small talk with either reception or the porter. I know they're just trying to be friendly and they are trained to do so as part of good customer service (most of the time) but for many of us it's just exhausting. In the setting proposed by "Strange Hotel," I'm not sure that will be an issue anymore.

Oh! One other cool thing about the hotel...facial recognition software. Ever lost your hotel room key or had it demagnetized? I had that happen to me about five times back when I was in New York last summer. At Strange Hotel, you can be automatically issued a new key after passing a facial recognition test. Cool, huh?

Yes, the success of this venture is still very much in doubt but I'd say it's worth a bash anyway. I'm not sure how such a hotel would go over in America. Here we're rather taken aback by "the uncanny valley." Masahiro Mori coined that concept in 1970. It refers to the odd revulsion humans have to things that look human but just aren't quite right. In other words, either make your robots utterly humanlike or so cutesy that they obviously couldn't be human. There appears to be little allowance for the middle.

That might not be an issue. I somehow see the Japanese erring on the cutesy side. Have your luggage taken to your room by Hello Kitty or the like. I pretty much would be down for any form of robot hotel service, especially at the relatively low rate of $60 American for one night. Be nice to these new robot laborers. Looks like they're taking over.

Next thing you know, they're telling jokes or starting bands.

Oh yeah, it's St. Patrick's Day. I guess I'm suppose to...do something. So just imagine that this post has been read to you in a brogue.

Or...I dunno. Here's Morrissey.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

1 comment:

  1. On FB, FR said: " Coming soon will be robotic brothels (voiced by Siri) in Las Vegas: "It's okay, human. What happens in my artificial vagina stays in my artificial vagina."
    On the more serious side: given Japan's dramatically falling population combined with a need to care for hte elderly (and other grunt work), robotic services are not a bad idea. There are actually ghost town in Japan, enough for some artists to erect mannequins in them to make the town look alinve. I've seen them and they really CREEP ME OUT."


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