Being a hotel butler can be either a life-long pursuit or a dreary, part-time job with terrible working hours and ungrateful customers. Opinions on it aside, this industry in the coming years is about to face a serious shake-up. It comes in the form of robots designed to do most of the hard labour and customer service in a hotel, and it is not some far away futuristic concept, but rather already a reality.
An Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California (home of Apple), has begun trialling the use of the SaviOne - the world’s first robotic butler. Built by upcoming robotics company Savioke, the SaviOne is causing quite a buzz. It has already received considerable funding by Google and AME Cloud ventures, and its parent company is staffed with some of the foremost robotics experts in Silicon Valley.
The SaviOne robot itself, also known in the Aloft hotel as the ‘A.L.O. Botlr’, has the form factor of a meter-tall white barrel. It is topped with a 7 inch phalet which staff and customers use to interact with, and features a robotic lid which opens up to allow access to “two cubic feet” of storage space. Upon interaction with a user, the robot makes cute beeping noises which bear more than a passing similarity to those of R2-D2.
Primarily, the robot can be used to deliver goods from one part of the hotel, to individual guest’s rooms. These goods can be in the form of freshly cooked ‘room service’ food, or come in the form of commonly used and requested amenities such as fresh towels or toiletries. A staff member simply keys a room number onto the SaviOne’s touch pad, and the robot moves at a walking pace towards the destination. It can even wirelessly link with the elevators in a hotel in order to call lifts and use them to travel to their destination.
While Aloft Cupertino has stated that this robot has not replaced any of their staff, it is likely it could cause an industry-wide impact if it becomes popular. The service industry currently hires a lot of low-skilled manpower, and should a robot (such as the SaviOne) be built that replaces these labourers, then thousands of people could see their jobs lost.
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