Half of this hotel’s robots were fired. Official reason: being too annoying!
Pioneering robot hotel, Japan’s Henn na Hotel, found itself halving its robotic workforce. Here’s why…
There is much anxiety in the modern economy about human workers being replaced by robots.
As automation has reduced the amount of human workers necessary in industries such as manufacturing, technological developments such as machine learning and AI threaten to do so in others.
While such anxieties have so far largely avoided inflicting the hospitality industry, there are some hotels—specifically in Japan—that experiment with robotic humanoid workers.
It is not, however, time for human employees to worry just yet. In fact, a pioneering Japanese robot-staffed hotel recently fired half of its robotic workforce.
Pulling the plug on robotic services
Japan’s Henn na Hotel, which first opened in 2015 with a staff of 243 robots and translates in English to “strange hotel,” has cut its robotic workforce after the experience failed to reduce costs for management or workload for its human employees.
The hotel, which is located in Nagasaki, will reduce its robotic workforce by more than half and return to more traditional human-provided services for guests, though it will maintain a number of robots in areas where it found them to be effective and efficient.
Its change of direction can offer lessons for companies that are pursuing robotic solutions for customer-service roles, reports Business Insider.
The “firing” comes after complaints from both staff and customers. Apparently, a large percentage of the robots were more adept at creating work for their human counterparts than they were at reducing it.
Why did “Strange Hotel” fire its robots?
The Henn na Hotel in Japan, simply put, fired its robots because it found that robots annoyed the guests and would often break down.
Guests complained their robot room assistants thought snoring sounds were commands and would wake them up repeatedly during the night. This of course, is less than ideal for any guest trying to rest.
Meanwhile, the robot at the front desk could not answer basic questions. Human staff ended up working overtime to repair robots that stopped working.
One staff member said it is easier now that they are not being frequently called by guests to help with problems with the robots, reports The Mirror.
At the hotel, at least until recently, each room came equipped with a robot assistant, dubbed Churi, which was one of the first non-humans to get the pink slip after guests complained that could not answer even the most basic questions.
The robot problem extended to luggage-carrying bots, whose only job turned out to be more than they could handle.
So yes, while hotels and the broader hospitality industry will likely continue to experiment with robots, the chance of a property going to a majority staff of them still remains slim for now.
Let’s take a look at a few other projects currently underway in Japan:
Aloft Tokyo Ginza
Ace Hotel Kyoto
Ana InterContinental Beppu Resort & Spa
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