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Hotel guests open the door to a robotic butler

Sharon Gaudin | March 13, 2015
The Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, Calif. has been using an autonomous robot as a butler, delivering small items that guests might have forgotten to pack, like toothpaste or a razor, along with snacks and candy.

aloft hotel robot

If a guest is staying at the Aloft hotel in Cupertino, Calif. and asks for a comb or a late-night snack, the guest may be surprised at who -- or what -- brings it to the room.

The Aloft Hotel in the Silicon Valley city has been using an autonomous robot as a butler, delivering small items that guests might have forgotten to pack, like toothpaste or a razor, along with snacks and candy.

The robot, dubbed Butlr, has worked out so well that another one of the hotel chain's properties has begun using its own robot and a third has plans in the works to adopt another.

"At the Aloft, we strive to be different than any other hotels," said Derrick Agas, front desk supervisor at the Aloft in Cupertino. "We're in the middle of Silicon Valley where it's pretty much tech central, so we try to do the newest and greatest things. This came out of that."

And that, according to Agas, is giving the hotel an advantage.

In an area where they're catering to a tech-savvy customer base, having a robot calling its own elevator and traveling the hallways making deliveries is only a plus.

"The Aloft hotels serve a very specific, trendy and high-tech audience," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "I think that this chain was the perfect place to start with a robotic butler. I think it serves as a differentiator, for sure, with their audience. If consumers warm up to it, it could keep them coming back."

An Aloft hotel in Newark, Calif. has begun using its own robot and a new property in Sunnyvale, Calif. is expected to get one when it opens for business.

The robot is made by Savioke, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company that designs and builds robots for the services industry, including offices and elder care.

The SaviOne, a wheeled robot shaped similar to an upright cylinder, is being piloted at Aloft, according to Savioke's website.

The robot uses a tablet that hotel staff can use to punch in a security code -- to keep mischievous guests from trying to use the robot for unofficial purposes -- and to punch in the guest's hotel room number so it knows where to go.

After that, SaviOne uses a Wi-Fi connection to call the elevator and heads to the guest room. When it gets to its destination, it calls the guest on the room phone to announce its arrival.

Whatever the robot is delivering is carried in an enclosed hatch on top of the bot.

When the guest opens her door, the hatch opens and she can take her toothbrush or snack.

 

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