The Henn-na Hotel (translating appropriately to “weird hotel”) opened to the Japanese public this Friday, allowing guests to check in and have their bags handled exclusively by robots. The building is a part of the ‘Huis Ten Bosch’ theme park, however head of the venture, Hideo Sawada, says that the hotel is not a gimmick but instead a serious experiment in advancing efficiency and human-robot interaction.
When arriving at the hotel, you will be checked in by humanoid robots made of silicone and metal at the reception desk, with the Japanese speaking automation constructed to look like a generic female hotel-receptionist, and the English speaking robot next to it designed as a small dinosaur wearing a bow-tie…for whatever reason. After registering for a room, your face will be scanned as there are facial-recognition locks in place of the traditional key-cards. You will then place your bags on a robotic cart, type in your room number, and the talking luggage carrier will direct you to one of the 72 rooms. The robot service doesn’t stop there though, as each room is equipped with a small pink lamp-sized robot called a “Tuly”, which can answer various questions – such as “what time is it? and “what is the weather like tomorrow” – and control the lights on command, as there are no switches on the walls. On top of that, there is an advanced temperature system in each enclosure that continually adjusts the heat according to its reading of how warm or cold the guests are.
“I wanted to highlight innovation,” Mr. Sawada told the Associated Press. “I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up.” Rooms at the Henn-na Hotel start at 9,000 yen ($80), a surprisingly cheap stay for Japan where five star hotels reportedly cost almost two or three times more. Sawada and his team have also stated that the robots will save energy, reduce labour costs, cut-down on waste, and of course make the hotel more self-sufficient.
Furthermore, Sawada showed off a small drone-like robot that delivers jars full of snacks to the customers, and said that he plans to eventually have them programmed to “perform shows for guests.” He is currently only allowing the hotel to reach half-capacity for the first few weeks to ensure nothing goes wrong before fully opening it.
The only humans working at the hotel are ones watching the various security cameras scattered amongst the facility, to ensure that no one runs off with any of the expensive technology.