It sounds like the premise of a cautionary tale; a high tech hotel staffed by robots. But come July, it will be a reality; the establishment, which is called Henn-na Hotel (literally translated as ‘Strange Hotel’) will open for business at Huis Ten Bosch, a theme park in Japan.
The front desk will be manned by three ‘actroids’, who will be capable of engaging guests in the usual polite chit-chat while checking them in. There are also a number of robotic porters and servers. Human staff will also be on hand, although Huis Ten Bosch president Hideo Sawada is keen for robots to take over at least 90% of hotel services.
Sawada is certain that Henn-na will be “the most efficient hotel in the world,” and is confident that this experiment will be a success. “In the future, we’re hoping to build 1,000 similar hotels around the world,” he told Nikkei News.
In addition to its man-made manpower, the hotel itself will also be equipped with cutting edge technology. Instead of traditional, programmable air conditioning, rooms will feature sensors that detect body heat, and radiation panels which will create a seamless, comfortable environment. Single rooms are available to book for just JPY7,000 – around $60.
Of course, anyone familiar with their science fiction will be able to tell you that installing robots in service positions is bound to end badly. A mechanical uprising is only a matter of time. And what of the human beings trying to make a living in the hospitality industry? If Sawada’s innovation proves popular, will the Strange Hotel edge these people out of their jobs entirely?
The short answer: probably not. While the notion of a robot hotel is an impressive novelty, it is likely to remain just that. Sure, an android concierge will be able to deal with one unreasonable guest after another without losing their cool, and jetlagged travellers might even be relieved at the thought of not having to engage the hotel receptionist in small talk. But as much as we love ordering meals via iPad and solving customer care issues through instant messaging, nothing can replace real, human service with a smile.