When we think of robots and AI we think of them aiding us in our tasks. Many people shutter though at the thought of being out of work when they do more than just aiding us in our tasks and as technology advances at Nicely Done Sites we wonder about that as well. For now humans are still needed and a hotel in Japan found this out the hard way resulting in the “firing” of half of its robotic staff.

A robot hotel?

When the Henn na Hotel opened in 2015 in the Huis Ten Bosch theme park outside of Nagasaki (yes that Nagasaki) it was a novelty. It had was advertised as having a completely robotic staff (in actuality it was 90% as human staff were still necessary for emergencies and other tasks robots couldn’t handle). It’s goal was to be the most efficient hotel in the world employing 243 robots, most of whom were dressed up as dinosaurs, to do the work that humans would normally do. Problems began to arise almost immediately and three years later the hotel’s human management staff had enough, letting go of half of the robotic staff and bringing in humans.

Robots were bad at their jobs

It turned out that the concierge robots, at first dressed up like velociraptors and later expanded to feature more variety, could not answer even the basic questions of the hotel’s guests. Robot dancers in the lobby proved to be nothing more than a nuisance. Bellhop robots (again dressed as velociraptors) could only function on flat surfaces and were also able to access only a small number of rooms. Guests had to carry their own luggage and would have to make their own beds or pay a small fee as there was no turndown robot.

Perhaps most annoying though was Churi, a virtual assistant in every hotel room. Churi would interrupt guests as they talked and at least one guest found that Churi kept waking him up when it misinterpreted his snoring as a question. It’s high-pitched voice was sure to annoy.

Ahead of its time or ill conceived?

It was an idea probably ahead of its technological time. By cutting down on human costs rooms were able to be sold for far below those of competitors. A single room cost $60 and a double cost $80 per night, not bad for being located at a popular theme park. Facial recognition software was used for guest access instead of room keys though room keys could still be used. The information stored was promised to be discarded upon checkout. Unfortunately when the hotel “staff” can’t answer basic questions, gets in the way of guests and won’t let guests sleep at night there is a problem. A far cry from the most efficient hotel in the world.

Some of the robots used are much more conventional like Roombas which have retained their jobs. In all probability the robotic fish in the lobby aquarium have as well. Food and drinks in the hotel were available through vending machines in the lobby (not unusual in Japan) but we know the most pressing question you have and no, there was no robot bartender.

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