Aloft Hotels Brings Robotics to Room Service
The Aloft hotel chain, part of Starwood Hotels, just announced that it will be using robots in some of its properties to deliver "room service" to its guests--including everything from pre-packaged snacks to toothbrushes and razors. The robots, manufactured by a Santa Clara start-up called Savioke, can reach speeds of up to four miles and hour and can negotiate elevators to make travel around a hotel pretty easy. Once it reaches a guest's room, the system calls the room to alert the guest that his requested item has arrived. Instead of leaving a tip, guests can rate the service using the robot's built-in screen and UI; if the rating is high enough, the robot does a little dance of appreciation. This seems like a pretty straight-forward use of a robot; perhaps it will save Starwood Hotels money, although it's hard to see how--my guess is that today, most Aloft hotel guests simply go to the front desk when they need the items the robots will now deliver free. More likely it will add a little tech flare to a hotel chain that has built a brand on being hip and savvy. Still, in my opinion the robots would be much better if they also offered video capabilities, allowing guests to interact not with the machine, but with actual people. What do you think? Is this the wave of the future, or just a cute marketing play? What are the best use cases? And how could UCC make the experience even better?