They’ve passed the self-awareness test, killed a worker in Germany and now they’re about to open their own hotel. Specifically, the Henn-na Hotel in Tokyo, run by humanoid robots, from the check-in staff to the concierge and even the porter.
Granted, there are 10 humans working behind the scenes in the 72-room contemporary-Japanese style hotel to keep the technology running smoothly. It’s also overseen by a flesh-and-blood hotel manager, who was brought in from the Sheraton. But be forgiving if the greeting is a bit stiff: Yumeoko, the bowing lady greeting you at the entrance, is no more human than any of her colleagues at reception (or the rest of the Henn-na). You can also forget about a room key (you’ll need to make it past a face scanner to get into your room) and human interaction in the café (though you can still pick up a hot dog from the vending machines). And a pint-size, bedside robot is on hand all night to do your bidding though fluent Japanese is a pre-requisite.
Cheap as (Computer) Chips
Perhaps the most surprising thing is that you can stay in a double room in this sci-fi haven for just £47 a night (Y 9,000). For even though the Henn-na is sat in the middle of Huis Ten Bosch, a 380-acre, Dutch inspired waterfront theme park, its creators have no intention that it should be a gimmick. Rather, it’s intended to be a low-cost prototype “smart hotel” of the future.
Tech-loving Japan may be an apt place for the world’s first robot hotel, but there is no sign that its story will also end here. Hideo Sawanda, President of Huis Ten Bosch aims to open hundreds all over the world in the coming decade. Next year alone, he’s opening a second, 72-room building nearby, complete with room-service robots. His UK vision is a hotel packed with humanoid ladies speaking with different British accents and “maybe even able to wink”. Perhaps the Ritz should be worried.
While there’s something eerily futuristic about this hotel, it also dramatically brings home the technological revolution that’s taking the industry by storm, and can only gather pace with the rising affluence of Chinese tourists and Millenials. If you’re in the mood for some more crystal-ball-gazing, have a scan of our technology predictions for 2015. Sorry for the glaring omission of the robot hotel takeover...