Robots will be invading U.S. hotels. Or at least they will if Aloft Hotels' newest experiment succeeds.
The hotel chain's Aloft Cupertino outpost, in Silicon Valley, is testing out a robotic butler (the Botlr)—perhaps taking a cue from the Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel in China where robots have replaced the staff. Earlier this month, Aloft Cupertino made a tuxedo-dressed Savokie A.L.O. robot part of its staff, and while the robot is currently only part of a single-location, the company is considering placing close to 100 robots in their hotels worldwide, depending on the results of the pilot. No surprise on the intial location: Cupertino, Calif., is home to technology companies like Apple, Seagate and TrendMicro, and draws a large number of techie-minded business travelers.
“It has the productivity of Wall-E, the humor of Rosie from The Jetsons and is aesthetically reminiscent of perhaps the most famous robot of all, R2-D2,” said Brian McGuinness, global brand leader of Aloft Hotels.
But will the addition of robotic butlers take away jobs? According to McGuinness, definitely not.
“Technologies are not designed to replace people, especially at a hospitality company," McGuinness said. "Technology enables our hotel associates to make more time to do what they do best: deliver personalized service to our guests.”
Botlr is available to help the front desk complete tasks such as picking up and delivering amenities to guests, transporting towels and linens between laundry facilities, guest rooms and fitness centers.
When the front desk receives a request, a staff member place the item inside Botlr, which then delivers the item. The robot navigates the hotel on its own through a combination of on-board sensors (to help it avoid bumping into things) and the room number from the front desk. It wirelessly communicates with the elevator software to ensure navigation across floors and uses WiFi and 4G to communicate with the hotel when running errands.
When the delivery is complete, guests can "tip" the robot through tweets tagged with #MeetBotlr, and as a show of thanks, the robot does a little dance for them.