Japan’s New Hotel – Run By Robots

A hotel with a difference recently opened in Japan. On arrival at the lobby desk, guests are greeted by robots. The hotel is called Henn-na Hotel and it is located in Nagasaki. The name of the hotel translates into English as “strange hotel.”

For guests arriving, they are checked in, helped with their luggage, and have their rooms serviced by humanoid looking robots (or androids). The robots have been designed to resemble young Japanese women.

The robots are said to be sophisticated enough to engage in basic conversation, make eye-contact with guests and alter their programs in relation to the body language exhibited by the guests. This is based on a combination of facial recognition software and detectors used to assess body temperature variations. The robots are multilingual and can speak in fluent Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English.

Inside each room is a robotic room concierge. This resembles a small lamp-sized device named Tuly. Tuly can advise guests about the weather, control the lighting, operate the television, and set the alarm. In a future development, the hotel will soon have drones flying to the room to deliver room service.

Interviewed by The Guardian last year, the hotel’s founder, Hideo Sawada, sttaed he aims to make his establishment “the most efficient hotel in the world” by reducing manpower and having 90 percent of staff robotic.

For those familiar with the recent television series Humans, the robots carry an uncanny resemblance. Although unlike those in the science fiction series, these robots cannot be regarded as sentient according to the definitions of artificial intelligence…at least, not yet.

The cost of staying in the hotel is not overly expensive. A single room can be purchased for £40 / $60 /¥7,000 per night; with double rooms going for around £50 / $80 / ¥9,000.

The advance of robotics in Japan is not limited to hotels. In 2015, the Tokyo branch of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi put a humanoid robot on its reception.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.