The Henn na Hotel in Japan is cutting back on automation after an experiment to replace human staff with robots has largely been a failure. The robots have been unable to reduce costs or workload for employees.
The hotel has employed almost 250 robots to meet guests' needs since 2015, including in-room voice assistants and a robotic concierge. It also put robots to work behind the scenes to complete tasks such as sorting and transporting luggage.
Since their installation in 2015, there have been several issues with robotic members of staff. One guest was constantly woken in the night by an in-room robotic assistant who thought his snoring was voice commands, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The debacle offers a lesson for events organisers who plan to rely heavily on automation or use conference or hotel facilities that do so. Samantha Van Leeuwen, head of UK hotels and venues at PricewaterhouseCoopers, pointed out that: "If a delegate has had a really bad journey to an event, a robot isn’t going to be able to calm them down and reassure them. It’s not all about technology, the people are vital too."
Velociraptor robots that were installed behind the reception desk at the Henn na Hotel were scrapped because they were unable to answer questions about the area and a human member of staff needed to be on hand to process passports.
Robots tasked with delivering luggage kept breaking down and were unable to reach all the rooms.
The robotic workforce will now be reduced by more than half and return to more traditional human-provided services for guests. The hotel will maintain a number of robots in areas where it found them to be effective and efficient.
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