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Craving machine companionship? Japan's robot hotel is for you

Tim Hornyak | July 16, 2015
When you check into Japan's newest hotel, a mechanized velociraptor in a bellhop cap greets you at the front desk.

But it's all part of the awkward theater of spending the night in what feels like a set for a sci-fi B movie, with human support staff in the background.

"Basically guests will see only robots, not humans" when the hotel opens on Friday, said general manager Masahiko Hayasaka.

Announced in January, Henn-na Hotel is aimed at accommodating the burgeoning numbers of visitors to Huis Ten Bosch, which scored a profit in its 2011 fiscal year after going bankrupt in 2003.

It's also meant to provide relatively cheap accommodation by keeping human staff to a minimum, Hideo Sawada, president of the theme park operator, said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Henn-na Hotel has an online auction system for rooms, with the minimum for a single room set at ¥9,000 (US$73). That's less than half the rate at the other hotels at the theme park (which start around ¥20,000 to ¥30,000). Aside from the use of robots instead of paid human workers for the main jobs, power-saving equipment such as LED lights and air conditioning that uses condensation panels instead of ventilation is expected to significantly reduce operating costs.

The hotel is planning to open a second wing, also 72 rooms, next year, as well as a branch in central Japan. The company is also considering opening robot hotels overseas, Sawada said, without elaborating on possible locations.

 

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