Published on : Thursday, September 27, 2018
Alibaba A.I. Labs said it will introduce a robot for the hospitality sector, making it the latest in a series of hotel-specific robots that make deliveries to guests in order to free up human staff for more complicated tasks.
The Alibaba robot will be deployed in October to deliver food and laundry to hotel guests, but the announcement did not specify where exactly. Guests can place orders via the Tmall Genie speaker or a tablet. When the robot arrives with a drink order, it flips open its top and a can pops up. (It was not immediately clear how food and laundry arrive.
The robot is slightly under one meter (about 3.3 feet) tall and moves at a speed of up to one meter per second (about 2.3 miles per hour). It houses a semantic map, an autonomous navigation system to identify and dodge obstacles, a communications system to control elevators and facial recognition technology for ID verification. The guests can interact with the robot using voice commands, as well as touch and hand gestures.
Hospitality is one of the first industries to really embrace robots in customer-facing roles, but they are also in use in sectors like healthcare, agriculture and logistics.
In 2016, Hilton said it was teaming up with IBM to test a Watson-enabled robot concierge called Connie in a McLean, Va., hotel. Connie was supposed to provide guests with information about local attractions, dining options and hotel amenities—and was intended to work alongside human staff to enhance the guest experience. However, a rep for Hilton said Connie has not been operational since 2016 and she did not have additional information.
Service company Savioke introduced its robot, Relay, in 2014. It is used by hotel brands like Aloft, Crowne Plaza, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Hyatt Place, Residence Inn, Sheraton and Westin in select locations. A rep said these hotels use Relay to deliver items like food, drinks, electronics, balloons and flowers to guest rooms.