Humans are worrying that robots are out to get their jobs but they may have failed to imagine that said robots could also be fired. OK, it’s not exactly that dramatic but when a hotel that made a name for itself for employing more than 200 robots “retires” half of them, you can be something’s amiss. As it turns out, Japan’s and the world’s first robot hotel may have bitten a bit more than they could chew and may now have to rely on hopefully non-robotic humans to keep things running smoothly.
It was the hotel of the future but perhaps it was far too ahead of its time. Even the biggest companies in consumer robots aren’t so ambitious to immediately staff hotel operations with 243 robots. LG’s robots, for example, are rare and few in between and aid rather than supplant their human equivalents.
But Henn na Hotal, literally “strange”, was going for records and now it might have a new one: most number of terminated robot staff in one go. The velociraptor at the check-in desk wasn’t exactly what you’d call “hospitable” and robots that carried your luggage broke down even before they reached your room.
Perhaps the most glaring example of robots gone wrong is Churi. Yes, it sounds like Suri and the association now will be almost comical. Churi, which was the voice assistant installed in every room and replaced every phone, had difficulty understanding the room’s occupants. Even worse, it would wake up guests in the middle of the night with “Sorry, I couldn’t catch that”, mistaking snoring for normal speech.
Henn na, however, isn’t giving up but it’s dialing down its fantasies. Rather than forcing robots of the future that don’t work, the hotel will be switching to less flashy technologies that do. Face recognition on door locks may not be as dramatic but it’s still uncommon enough to have a wow factor. Plus, it won’t be so in your face, at least not figuratively.
Image courtesy of the New York Post.