Photo: Aloft Hotels
Imagine checking into a hotel suite and ordering a fresh set of towels. Instead of being greeted by your typical bellhop, you open the door to a three-foot-tall robot sporting a painted-on bow tie.
An Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California has made the Jetsons-esque technology a reality with the introduction of A.L.O Botlr, a robotic butler that launched today for its pilot program. The bot will assist the front desk by serving the needs of guests, whether that means distributing linens or delivering a can of soda.
“The appointment of Botlr will free up existing hotel associates’ time – particularly during very busy periods like check-in and check-out – by allowing them to create a more personalized experience for our guests while it handles small tasks and deliveries,” said Brian McGuinness, Senior Vice President of the Aloft brand.
California startup Savioke, which is backed by Google Ventures, created the service bot (originally called SaviOne). When a guest calls the front desk to make a request, the robot requires an associate to place that product inside of its compartment. Then the staff member inputs the guest’s floor and room number on the machine’s tablet interface. Botlr takes over from there, swiftly gliding past the hotel lobby and into an elevator before calling the room when it arrives.
“The robot will be riding the elevator along with hotel guests and will need to somehow communicate that it has arrived at its floor and wants to get off the elevator,” he said. “It will be making R2D2-like sounds to indicate that it would like to get off the elevator – so that relationship is something we’ll be watching closely.”
Perhaps guests will be most receptive to the idea that Botlr doesn’t accept tips, at least not in the traditional sense. In sticking to its high-tech nature, it will ask for ratings in the form of tweets, using the hashtag #MeetBotlr.
Currently, Starwood Hotels, Aloft’s parent company, has an exclusive deal with Savioke until the end of 2014. If the current pilot project is a hit, Starwood guests can expect to be greeted by the robot in many more of the brand’s locations. Regardless of Botlr’s success, McGuinness emphasizes that robots will never take the place of existing hotel staff.
“Technologies are not designed to replace people, especially at a hospitality company,” he said. “People are the very core of our business and our talent are the backbone of what we do.”