Robots do check-in and check-out at cost-cutting Japan hotel
From the receptionist that does the check-in and check-out to the porter that's an automated trolley taking luggage up to the room, this hotel in southwestern Japan, aptly called Weird Hotel, is "manned" almost totally by robots to save labour costs.
Sasebo (Japan): From the receptionist that does the check-in and check-out to the porter that's an automated trolley taking luggage up to the room, this hotel in southwestern Japan, aptly called Weird Hotel, is "manned" almost totally by robots to save labour costs.
Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel as part of an amusement park, insists using robots is not a gimmick, but a serious effort to utilise technology and achieve efficiency.
The receptionist robot that speaks in English is a vicious-looking dinosaur, and the one that speaks Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes.
"If you want to check in, push one," the dinosaur says. The visitor still has to punch a button on the desk, and type in information on a touch panel screen.
Henn na Hotel, as it is called in Japanese, was shown to reporters today, complete with robot demonstrations, ahead of its opening to the public on Friday.
Another feature of the hotel is the use of facial recognition technology, instead of the standard electronic keys, by registering the digital image of the guest's face during check-in.
The reason? Robots aren't good at finding keys, if people happen to lose them.
A giant robotic arm, usually seen in manufacturing, is encased in glass quarters in the corner of the lobby. It lifts one of the boxes stacked into the wall and puts it out through a space in the glass, where a guest can place an item in it, to use as a locker.
The arm will put the box back into the wall, until the guest wants it again. The system is called "robot cloak room." Why a simple coin locker won't do isn't the point.
"I wanted to highlight innovation," Sawada told reporters. "I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up."
Staying at Henn na Hotel starts at 9,000 yen (USD 80), a bargain for Japan, where a stay in one of the nicer hotels can easily cost twice or three times that much.
The concierge is a doll-like hairless robot with voice recognition that prattles breakfast and event information. It cannot call a cab or do other errands.
Japan is a world leader in robotics technology, and the government is trumpeting robotics as a pillar of its growth strategy. Robots have long been used here in manufacturing.
But interest is also high in exploring the potential of robots in human interaction, including helping care for the elderly.
Robotics is also key in the decommissioning of the three reactors in Fukushima, northern Japan, which went into meltdowns in 2011, in the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl.
One area Henn na Hotel still relies on human beings is security.
The place is dotted with security cameras, and real people are watching everything through a monitor to make sure guests stay safe and no one makes off with one of the expensive robots.