Hotel check-in by a velociraptor with a bellhop hat? Trust a tech-crazed country to come up with such a concept.
We’re talking about Japan, of course. Welcome to the world’s first robotic hotel, Hen Na Hotel. First opened in Nagasaki in 2015, there are now 10 robot hotels including seven in Tokyo alone. Going with the mantra ‘A commitment for evolution’, the hotels typically employ no more than 10 actual humans per branch, giving the front office, housekeeping and entertainment tasks to a bunch of hard-working robots instead.
That’s a good amount of yen saved on employee benefits.
Multilingual Mr Velociraptor pictured above is not alone on the shift. There’s also the humanoid to ensure a smooth check-in for guests. On the side is a cute concierge bot that will explain breakfast times and order taxis for you. Inside every room is a little electronic creature that helps to switch on the lights, make wake up calls, and adjust the room temperature. Other facilities are pretty cool too. If a guest decides to register themselves with the face-recognition technology, they wouldn’t need to carry key cards.
Watch this video to see what it’s like checking into a robot hotel.
Humanoid and Dinosauroid cultures have long in existed Japan. Even before Nobita discovered Doraemon, there were the traditional Japanese mechanical puppets called karakuri (translates to mechanism or trick). Constructed in the 17th and 19th centuries, they didn’t have magic pockets to whip out the ‘Anywhere Door’ or the ‘Helicopter Hat’, as they were meant more for entertainment than functionality.
A few hundred years later, Japan unveiled its first ‘real’ robot by the name of Gakutensoku. The name directly translates to ‘learning from the laws of nature’, christened by the creator itself, Makoto Nishimura, who was a botanist and biologist.
Fast forward to this millennia, robots are no longer a vision of the future but are becoming more of a norm. Ride the train in Tokyo and you might encounter a persuesbot, the security robot tasked to patrol the railway stations. This is only considered as internship though, as their full-time employment contract is for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics when Japan is expected to see a huge surplus of visitors and therefore security is top priority. We think this a missed opportunity to call them robocops.
Meanwhile, those craving for midnight munchies can look forward to having piping hot karaage (Japanese battered fried chicken chunks) at popular convenience store Lawson, which recently deployed robots for this specific purpose. There is also the robot that dispenses ice-cream cones if you feed it a 100 yen note, and a robot that gives out hairstyle suggestions for when you’re going through a breakup and need a makeover.
We’re not quite sure if these robots hang out for a round of sake drinking after work, but it’d be really cool if we could join them.
Robot hotel is just the latest addition to the weird and wonderful array of lodgings that Japan provides. The capsule hotel, which started out as a means for salarymen to crash after a hard day at work or sake over-bingeing or both, has become a tourist attraction in its own right.
And then there are the love hotels. Originally catered to adults looking for a quick tryst, it has since blossomed into a big business, inspiring hoteliers to up the ante with crazy-themed rooms. Take your pick from circular-caged beds or rooms decorated in jungle motifs, spaceships, cosmos, and everything in between!
The robot hotel is not exempted from criticism though. The robots’ inability to suggest good places to eat or laugh at your jokes might be a little off-putting, but the novelty of staying there is surely an experience to remember.
General public reception hasn’t seemed to have waned despite some setbacks. The company behind the robot hotels, H.I.S. Co. Ltd., has announced that it targets to have at least 100 robot hotels across the country by 2021.
If you’re a robot looking for a job, now is the best time to go to Japan. If you’re a traveller looking for a quirky experience, anytime is the best time to go to Japan!
GETTING THERE: AirAsia flies to Japan. Book your tickets now at airasia.com.