Check out ro­bot ho­tel

Townsville Bulletin - - CLASSIFIEDS -

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.

The visi­tor still has to punch a but­ton on the desk and type in in­for­ma­tion on a touch screen.

From its front desk to the porter, which is an au­to­mated trol­ley, this ho­tel in south­west­ern Ja­pan – aptly named the Weird Ho­tel – is “manned” al­most en­tirely by robots to save on 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 use tech­nol­ogy and achieve ef­fi­ciency.

Henn na Ho­tel, as it is called in Ja­panese, was shown to re­porters yesterday, com­plete with ro­bot demon­stra­tions, ahead of its open­ing to the public to­day.

Another fea­ture of the ho­tel is the use of fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy, in­stead of the stan­dard elec­tronic keys, by reg­is­ter­ing the dig­i­tal im­age of guests’ faces dur­ing check- in.

The rea­son? Robots aren’t good at find­ing keys if peo­ple hap­pen to lose them.

Stay­ing at Henn na Ho­tel starts at 9000 yen ($ A100), a bar­gain for Ja­pan, where a stay in one of the nicer ho­tels can easily cost twice or three times as much.

The concierge is a doll- like hair­less ro­bot with voice rec- og­ni­tion that prat­tles break­fast and event in­for­ma­tion. It can­not call a cab or do other er­rands.

One area Henn na Ho­tel still re­lies on hu­man be­ings for 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.

“And they still can’t make beds,” said Mr Sawada, who has also en­gi­neered the rise of a pop­u­lar af­ford­able Ja­panese travel agency. He has big am­bi­tions for his ro­bot ho­tel con­cept and wants to open another one soon in Ja­pan and later abroad. He is also ea­ger to add other lan­guages, such as Chi­nese and Korean, to the robots’ vo­cab­u­lary.

In the ho­tel’s rooms, a lamp- sized ro­bot in the shape of a fat pink tulip called Tuly an­swers sim­ple ques­tions like “What time is it?” and “What is the weather to­mor­row?”

You can also tell it to turn the room lights on or off.

WEL­COM­ING SMILE: The re­cep­tion­ist at the new ro­bot- op­er­ated ho­tel, Henn na Ho­tel – or Weird Ho­tel – in Sasebo, south­west­ern Ja­pan.

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