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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.

"People love it," Agas told Computerworld. "One family was staying here and their daughter really wanted to see it work. She loved it so much she wrote a letter. When she walked up to it, I opened the door so she dropped the letter inside and I hit the shimmy button so it did a little dance for her. She had the biggest smile on her face."

After a year of use, Agas said he doesn't know of any customers who have complained about the robot or been freaked out about being served by an autonomous machine.

Instead, guests often take videos of the robot and selfies with it.

Butlr, though, isn't just serving and amusing hotel guests. It's also giving human staffers a break from making small deliveries so they have time to do bigger jobs.

"We usually have two people at the front desk and now we don't have to send someone to a room when someone needs something," said Agas. "It helps us."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Review, noted that there's a definite novelty to using the robot at the hotel, but it also offers a higher availability of service for the business.

"In choosing between two similarly located, similarly featured hotels, this could make a difference for them," he said. "If this improves service and lowers cost, then we'll see more hotels trying out robotics."

Moorhead added that for an enterprise like Aloft hotels, using robotics could be a major business differentiator. And that, he said, is a smart strategic move.


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