Smart hotel? Japan opens a hotel run by robots

Robots and automated services will save energy, cut labor costs, reduce waste, and lead to a self-sufficient, solar-powered hotel, say owners.

Shizuo Kambayashi/AP
On Wednesday, July 15, 2015 Japan opened the world's first hotel run entirely by robots.

Has Japan found the pinnacle of modernity? At a new hotel, which opened to guests on Friday, a robot will check you in, take your bags, and escort you to your room.

The metal-and-silicone employees at Henn-na Hotel – which translates as "weird hotel" – include a female-shaped humanoid with blinking lashes that speaks Japanese at the reception desk, alongside an English speaking, dinosaur-shaped robot wearing a bow tie.

Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel in southwest Japan as part of Huis Ten Bosch theme park, says the robots and other technology are not gimmicks but a serious effort at efficiency and technological progress.

"I wanted to highlight innovation," Mr. Sawada told the Associated Press. "I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up."

The hotel is keyless. Each room has a facial recognition lock instead of the standard electronic keys. A digital image of the guest’s face is registered during check-in.

In the hotel rooms, a high-tech system senses how hot or cold guests are and adjusts the room temperature accordingly.

Each of the 72 rooms has a "Tuly," a lamp-sized robot in the shape of a fat pink tulip that can answer simple questions like, "What time is it?" and "What is the weather tomorrow?" Guests can also tell Tuly to turn the room lights on or off, as there are no switches on the walls.

According to the Associated Press, rooms at the Henn-na Hotel start at 9,000 yen ($80), a bargain for Japan, where five-star hotels cost two or three times as much.

Japan has long led the world in robot development in manufacturing, and has recently focused on human-robot interaction. In April, a robot greeted shoppers at Tokyo's Mitsukoshi department store.

At Japan’s Kansai University, researchers are developing a robot that can sweat, sprout goosebumps when faced with a cool breeze or told a scary story, and breathe.

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