A robotic bellhop? A robotic room service attendant? Technology continues to escalate and amaze us at the same time. The Wall Street Journal summarizes Botlr’s capabilities and how it may change the hospitality industry in this fascinating article.
Robots are driving cars, cleaning kitchens and fighting wars. Now they are bringing room service in hotels.
A robot shaped like the R2D2 character from “Star Wars” is roaming the halls of Starwood’s Aloft hotel in Cupertino, Calif., delivering late-night snacks and complimentary toothbrushes to guests in their rooms.
The machine, called Botlr, is a prototype made by Santa Clara, Calif., startup Savioke. The company began developing Botlr a year ago with the goal of freeing up hotel staff from the routine deliveries they do every day. Google Ventures invested in Savioke earlier this year.
Botlr is a fully autonomous robotic servant, programmed with a map of every hallway, elevator and guest room in the hotel. It uses a special laser-powered sensor called a lidar – the same navigation technology in Google’s self-driving cars — to find its way through the halls, and cameras to avoid people and other obstacles.
When a guest calls the front desk with a request, hotel employees can program the robot to deliver an item by hitting a few buttons.
Among the robot’s tricks, Botlr can call an elevator by tapping into the hotel’s wifi, board the elevator, and then order the elevator to a specific floor without ever touching the control pad. Botlr is in a test run four days a week at the Cupertino Aloft. Savioke plans to open up the pilot program to other hotels some time next year. The company aims to sell Botlr as a service and charge a monthly fee that includes maintenance of the devices.
The device will only work in hotels that have been specially wired up to work with it. For example, the Aloft in Cupertino has outfitted its elevator with a new WiFi system the robot can detect and use to open the elevator doors and select a floor.
Steve Cousins, Savioke’s chief executive, said the devices could also be used in restaurants, hospitals and elderly-care centers.
Savioke will have competition in the field of health care. A range of robotics companies including Aethon, inTouch Health and iRobot – the maker of the popular household cleaning robot Roomba – have already deployed robots to hundreds of hospitals, where the devices are used to deliver linens and medications to patients’ rooms.