In recent years, tourists have flocked to Japan seeking the famous Henn-Na Hotel. Staffed by multilingual robots, this innovative hotel has marketed itself as a “Robot Hotel”.
A Robot Hotel?
From the check-in staff to the bellboys, robots make up the majority of the main staff working there. In fact, two of them are English-speaking dinosaurs named Mirai and Yumeko who handle the reception desk alongside a female human-looking robot called Kibo. These robots speak Japanese, English, Korean, and Mandarin and are equipped with realistic features like blinking and smiling. The main reason behind this wawa to ameliorate the staff shortage at the Strange Hotel.
Technological Innovation in the Hotel Industry
In addition to the robots though, this hotel has also implemented the use of facial recognition. Therefore, guests do not need keys and security is improved to a large extent. This, in particular, has attracted many tourists to the hotel’s futuristic design.
Interestingly enough, in early 2019, the hotel laid off about half of its 243 robots. For example, Churi, a doll-shaped assistant in each room was laid off. Churi is a robot intended to mimic the use of other home assistants like Siri and Alexa. However, it was apparent that Churi’s technology wasn’t developed enough and she couldn’t answer some of the guests’ questions. This caused complaints and issues. Moreover, there were problems with a few of the other robots too:
The check-in robots couldn’t photocopy guests’ passports so human workers had to fill in this role
The robot luggage carriers could only reach about 24 of the rooms in the hotel and would get stuck in the rain or snow
The main concierge robot didn’t know how to answer questions from the guests. Therefore, the hotel has since replaced these robots with human staff
Such issues caused human workers to be substituted in. Inevitably, the hotel was mostly managed by workers – when the robots couldn't do something or answer a question, a human worker would take its place.
The hotel mentioned that these robots were in service for many years, so they are now outdated, and the costs of innovating these robots further were far higher than replacing them with humans. Even with many other hotels jumping on the bandwagon to become a robot hotel due to the long-term demand, it seems that a completely automated hotel run by robots is still yet to be a possibility in the near future.
Written by Nichapatr (Petch) Lomtakul