From concierge robots to personalized rooms to lively chatbots, your next holiday may include help from some artificially intellectualized friends. While you may miss, say, the smile or handshake you get from their human counterparts, these systems can create hyper-personalized experiences and comprehensively upgrade the level of service during your stay. Keep an eye out for these features at your next check-in.
Some hotels are using robots to beef up customer service. In Germany, the newest outpost of the budget chain Motel One in Munich uses a lederhosen-clad humanoid concierge named Sepp to greet guests. With the ability to answer all kinds of questions, personal and general, Sepp learns as he goes, getting smarter over time, and engages people in a whole new way. Want to know when breakfast is being served or how to get to the bar? Sepp is your man…er…android. Because he’s constantly learning, his answers will get more precise the more he interacts.
Meanwhile, in Singapore, the M Social hotel is using a front-of-house robot called Aura to deliver small amenities like water, towels, and toiletries to rooms. Another robot, Ausca, cooks your eggs in the morning. Elsewhere in the city, Hotel Jen uses colorful butler robots named Jeno and Jena to perform guest services that include in-room dining delivery.
Looking to the future, LG showed an even more engaging range of hospitality robots called CLOi at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Pronounced “Kloh-ee,” these bots can, among other things, clean up, serve food and drinks with a built-in sliding tray, handle baggage and payments at check-in and checkout, and provide directions. Though not in hotels yet, CLOi got its first successful trial at this year’s PyeongChang Olympics, cleaning floors at the Main Press Center.
Already employed by online travel agencies like Kayak and Booking.com, the chatbot is the newest way for guests to communicate with their hotel, without having to pick up a phone or wait online to speak to a concierge. Though you can’t reach out and touch them like you can with their robotic counterparts, you can ask them questions on a whim (usually through text), day or night.
At the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, you’ll meet Rose—a quixotic chatbot you can text for advice on where to eat or what to do. Though most recommendations are in-house, Rose treats guests to VIP access to select restaurants, bars, and clubs, letting them skip lines and entrance fees or get first crack at reservations for pool cabanas and spa treatments. She can offer extra amenities on-demand or even a tour of the hotel’s art. Guests are given a mysterious envelope when they check in, which provides Rose’s phone number and this teaser: “Know my secrets. Text me.” Both flirty and a little funny, she’ll crack a joke or play games like “Would You Rather” or “Kiss, Marry, Diss.” (Don’t worry, what happens with Rose stays with Rose).
In Spring 2018, Rose will be the first chatbot to serve casino and loyalty customers from the resort’s Identity Rewards program, automatically lavishing extra attention on them. She may text about free spa treatments, concert tickets, or other benefits they could then automatically book. If a guest has been frequenting a certain bar, she might suggest different on-site venues where they can use their Identity membership card, or recommend her favorite drinks. By the end of the year, Rose will be able to support voice commands and be gifted with an actual voice for two-way conversations.
Similar programs can be found at Aloft Boston Seaport, where guests can use the ChatBotler (get it?) to ask for amenities or obtain information about the hotel, and Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas, where over 10,000 rooms have access to Ivy, who helps with everything from wake-up calls to billing.
The future of luxury isn’t limited to Frette linen or Carrara marble. Imagine walking into your next hotel room to find everything exactly the way you like it, from the right lighting and your preferred temperature, to your blinds opening automatically in the morning and your favorite tunes cued up for your a.m. routine. These kinds of preprogrammed details, courtesy of AI, are the next wave in pampering visitors. If things are just right, you’ll come back more, the thinking goes—and the more you visit, the more a hotel will know how to make you happy.
Bret Greenstein, Global VP of Watson Internet of Things at IBM, thinks adding AI to a hotel room is a logical extension of what we already use at home—but better. “When you go to a hotel you want all the finer things—not the same home use,” he says. “And it needs to be deeply integrated into the experience.” IBM announced its Watson Assistant this March, which will combine AI with the cloud and Internet of Things—that is, the wireless linking of everyday objects—to automatically update your room with music, temperature, and lighting preferences, as well as syncing with your smartphone, calendar, and email via in-room technology.
Watson, in partnership with Harman Professional Solutions, has created Voice-Enabled Cognitive Rooms (pictured at top). Like the digital assistants we use at home, they enable you to walk into your room and ask for extra towels, order room service, or ask for specific information like check-out time or where to find the gym. All of it can be done with a simple, two-way speaker system, touch screens, or even a display built into the wall. While not adopted by hotels yet, it’s easy to see the appeal in the system’s streamlined customization. Especially when it can remember who you are and set up your room with a precision a human could not.