From the receptionists and porters to the concierge, the Henn na Hotel in Japan’s southern Nagasaki Prefecture has traded in humans for a diverse staff of robots.
Scheduled to open to the public on July 17, 2015, the “Weird Hotel” is manned almost totally by robots to save on labor costs. “I wanted to highlight innovation,” Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel, tells reporters. “I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up.”
Rooms at the Henn na Hotel start at $80 (9,000 yen) per night, while a stay at another hotel might cost two or three times as much. So just how robotic is this hotel? Here’s an inside peek.
The English-speaking receptionist is a vicious-looking dinosaur, and the one speaking Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes. “If you want to check in, push one,” the dinosaur says. Visitors then punch a button on the desk and type in information on a touch panel screen.
Porter robots act as automated trolleys to take luggage up to your room. A robotic arm stationed in the cloak room puts boxes into “lockers” and fetches them again when guests need it or want to add something to it.
In the rooms, a concierge robot sits on the bedside table, ready to take questions. The robot concierge is a pint-sized pink and green cartoon-like character with three hearts on her forehead and a permanent smile. She can can retrieve information about breakfast and upcoming events, but she can’t call a cab or do other errands.
There’s also a mobile robot from Muratec, which is still being tested, that is your room service waiter. From a tablet in your room, you can order food and fresh towels, all of which will eventually be ferried to you by the robot.
Sawada also demonstrated a drone that flew in to deliver a few small jars filled with snacks. He said he wanted to eventually have drones perform in shows for guests.
The Henn na Hotel also uses facial recognition technology instead of the standard keys, taking a photo of guests during check-in. As the hotel points out, robots aren’t equipped to find keys yet if you lose yours.
There are about 10 humans who remain behind the scenes of the Henn na Hotel. They monitor the hotel through security cameras to ensure guests are safe and nobody steals a robot or two. And they help with technical difficulties, should any arise.
“And [robots] still can’t make beds,” says Sawada.
Sawada wants to open another robot-staffed hotel soon in Japan and another one abroad. He also wants to add other languages, including Chinese and Korean, to the robots’ vocabulary.
“I’d love to open one in the UK,” Sawada tells the Telegraph. “Ideally with humanoid ladies speaking different British accents. Maybe able to wink too. That would be fun.”