Androids will greet guests at Japanese smart hotel

The Henn-na Hotel in southern Japan will have face-recognition programs instead of door keys

A theme park near Nagasaki in southern Japan will open a smart hotel featuring female androids that greet guests. This publicity shot from robot maker Kokoro, which will participate in the hotel, shows an Actroid android.

A theme park near Nagasaki in southern Japan will open a smart hotel featuring female androids that greet guests. This publicity shot from robot maker Kokoro, which will participate in the hotel, shows an Actroid android.

For centuries, hospitality in Japan has meant kimono-clad innkeepers attentive to the last detail. Now, androids from the company that licenses Hello Kitty will staff a new hotel.

A theme park near Nagasaki in southern Japan will open a smart hotel featuring female androids that greet guests, and robots that carry luggage and serve coffee.

Henn-na Hotel at the Dutch-inspired Huis Ten Bosch theme park will be partly powered by solar panels and guests will have the option of using facial-recognition software instead of door keys.

Henn-na Hotel, meaning "Strange Hotel" in English, will feature three uniformed reception androids, four service and porter robots, an industrial robot arm serving as a cloak room attendant and several cleaning robots.

The receptionists will be sourced from Kokoro, a group company of Hello Kitty licensing company Sanrio that is known for its lifelike Actroid androids. The hotel will also have machines from Aldebaran Robotics, which makes the Nao humanoid robot as well as mobile carrier SoftBank's Pepper humanoid robot, and Yaskawa Electric's industrial robots.

Huis Ten Bosch did not release further details on the robots, but a spokeswoman said about 10 human staff will help with hotel operations.

The facility will open a first phase in July with 72 rooms, and another phase with same capacity next year. Rooms will start from ¥7,000 (US$59), and will be open to an online auction system in which guests can bid for the rate they want.

The minimum price is far below the rates at the three other hotels at the theme park (which start around ¥20,000 to ¥30,000) because the use of robots, power-saving equipment such as LED lights and renewable energy is expected to significantly reduce operating costs.

"We'd like to draw visitors to this setting surrounded by nature by establishing a smart hotel, which could be something we could spread through Japan and the world," the spokeswoman for Huis Ten Bosch said.

Japan has been experimenting with androids for years, mostly for communication tasks, amid hopes that automation will help make up for a shrinking workforce. The androids cannot walk, but have a lifelike appearance and smooth arm, head and facial movements thanks to their air servo motion controllers.

They were deployed as information desk attendants as far back as 10 years ago at the 2005 Aichi Expo near Nagoya, and more recently have appeared at the Ceatec technology show outside Tokyo as well as the Miraikan museum in the Japanese capital, where they held their own press conference.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesroboticsinternetenvironmentAldebaran Robotics

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?