Japan, the world’s leader in robotics technology, has a hotel near Nagasaki that is run almost entirely by robots. Aptly called Henn-na Hotel, which literally means “Strange Hotel” it has replaced 90 percent of its staff replaced by strange, intriguing robots.
The experience starts at the reception desk, staffed by Yumeko, an animated, long-haired female android who speaks Japanese, and, strangely, a vicious-looking velociraptor who speaks English and ask visitors “If you want to check in, push one.” Now, the entire reception desk is trained to also speak Chinese and Korean.
The adventure continues as one goes to ones’s room, led by a robotic porter – an animated trolley that carries the luggage.
The hotel, which opened in July 2015, is designed to reduce electrical usage via the use of motion sensors for the lights. The air-conditioning system functions according to body heat in the room, and facial recognition technology operates the doors. “I want to highlight innovation,” said Hideo Sawada, owner of the hotel, clarifying that the use of robots is not a gimmick but a conscious effort to increase efficiency and make use of technology.
The hotel staff of 186 robots consists of a giant robotic arm in the robot cloak room, which places the visitors’ belongings in lockers, drones and small robots for room service and to provide beverages and snacks, robotic vacuum cleaners and window cleaners, and a small, animated concierge in every room. Tuly, or Churi-Chan, the concierge, is a small doll-like robot in the shape of a pink tulip. It controls the lighting and appliances in the room, and also provides information on the weather, breakfast, events and the time, in Japanese.
Robots are ubiquitous in Japan – they’re even used in banks and airports. Yet, this is the first hotel of its kind run almost entirely by robots.