Named for its purpose and state of mind, Botlr, the robotic servant is currently at the tail end of a test run at the Cupertino Aloft in California. We told you all about Botlr last month but in case you need a refresher, here’s how he/it works:
After receiving a request that needs to be delivered, such as a snack or small amenity, a hotel employee programs the robot by hitting a few buttons. Botlr then uses the hotel Wifi to interact within the hotel and perform tasks, such as calling and directing the elevator to a specific floor. It is programmed with a mapping system that allows it to navigate through the property, the exact same technology used by Google’s self-driving cars. Cameras help it avoid obstacles and real people.
When it arrives, it uses a signal to call the room telephone and alert the guest. Sensors allow Botlr to recognize when the door is opened and lift the lid on its storage container. And instead of being silently pressured into giving a tip, guests can enter a review for Botlr on its flat panel display screen. If it’s a positive review, the Botlr will do a little dance. Well, that solves our problem of not having enough cash on us.
Happy dances aside, the Botlr could soon become a standard hotel amenity. The robot’s pilot program will open to other hotels some time next year. According to the Wall Street Journal , Botlr’s creator “aims to sell Botlr as a service and charge a monthly fee that includes maintenance of the devices.”
A funny, awkward scene where a guest is alone with this robot in an elevator is developing in our heads, but we can’t overlook the potential negative implications of the official introduction of robotic hotel personnel. Will this result in the loss of jobs for real people? What will it be like interacting with physically present robots? Will we like it? Whether this turns out to be positive or negative for customer service remains to be seen.
No figures are currently being released about how much the robots will cost and how much money they could potentially save the hotels. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on the results of the test run as well as what hotels will be next to try out Botlr’s services.
[Photos: Aloft/Peter DaSilva for the New York Times]