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Japanese Hotel Staffed By 243 Robots Fires More Than Half Of The Bots Because Of Malfunctioning

Japan’s infamous robot hotel, where gets are met by a dino-bot and room service bots roam the halls, has fired over half of its robot workforce, it has been claimed.

The first Henn na Hotel opened in Nagasaki in 2015, and was certified the following year by Guinness World Records as the world’s first hotel with robots on its staff.

However, following numerous complaints from staff and customers, the chain has now culled over half of its 243 robots, many because they created work rather than reduced it, according to the Wall Street journal

‘It’s easier now that we’re not being frequently called by guests to help with problems with the robots,’ one staff member who has worked at the hotel for three years told the WSJ.

The travel agency group that operates the chain runs eight hotels across the country, all with robots on the staff, some of them dinosaurs, but others taking a more humanoid shape.

The hotel launched with around 80 robots, and soon added many more, including a team of human and dog robot dancers in the lobby.

However, guest say these were often broken down.

One even claims a bot in his room kept waking him up, as it was being triggered by his snoring.

The robot assistant in each room named ‘Churi’ was one of the first to be fired, after guest discovered it was unable to answer basic questions.

Atsushi Nishiguchi, a guest at the hotel in 2017, told the WSJ that after an irate exchange with Churi he decided to phone the hotel reception, only to find there was no phone in the room because the assistant was supposed to handle guests’ requests

‘She got a bad reputation,’ said Hideo Sawada, president of the travel company that owns the hotel, admitted.

The reception at the Hotel Maihama, the Henn na Hotel east of Tokyo, is eerily quiet until customers approach the robot dinosaurs manning the front desk.

Their sensors detect the motion and they bellow ‘Welcome.’

THE BROKEN BOTS

The front desk staff are a pair of giant dinosaurs that look like cast members of the Jurassic Park movies, except for the tiny bellboy hats perched on their heads.

The robo-dinos process check-ins through a tablet system that also allows customers to choose which language – Japanese, English, Chinese or Korean – they want to use to communicate with the multilingual robots.

The effect is bizarre, according to guests who have experienced it first hand, with the large dinosaurs gesticulating with their long arms and issuing tinny set phrases.

Yukio Nagai, manager at the Henn na Hotel Maihama Tokyo Bay, even admits some customers find it slightly unnerving.

‘We haven’t quite figured out when exactly the guests want to be served by people, and when it’s okay to be served by robots,’ he told AFP.

The first Henn na Hotel opened in Nagasaki in 2015, and was certified the following year by Guinness World Records as the world's first hotel with robots on its staff. A model of a Tyrannosaurus dinosaur, right, and a robotic garbage can stand in the lobby of the Henn na Hotel Maihama Tokyo Bay

The travel agency group that operates the chain now runs eight hotels across the country, all with robots on the staff, some of them dinosaurs, but others taking a more humanoid shape. A robotic garbage can stands in the lobby of the Henn na Hotel Maihama Tokyo Bay

For other guests the novelty is the charm.

Each room is staffed with mini-robots – called Tapia concierge robots – that look a bit like spherical Star Wars droid BB-8, and help guests with everything from changing channels to playing music.

Even the fish swimming in the lobby run on batteries, with electric lights in their articulated bodies flickering on and off as they work their way around giant tanks, and garbage cans are automated.

‘The dinosaurs looked intriguing, and I thought my son would love it,’ said Chigusa Hosoi, who recently stayed at the hotel with her three-year-old.

‘My son is really happy. There’s an egg-shaped robot inside the room. He was playing with it a lot.’

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Some human staff are also on call to intervene in case of glitches, which customer reviews online suggest are a not infrequent problem at check-in.

For shelp guests with everything from changing channels to playing music.

'The dinosaurs looked intriguing, and I thought my son would love it,' said Chigusa Hosoi, who recently stayed at the hotel with her three-year-old. 'My son is really happy. There's an egg-shaped robot inside the room. He was playing with it a lot'

WILL YOUR JOB BE TAKEN BY A ROBOT?

A report in November 2017 suggested that physical jobs in predictable environments, including machine-operators and fast-food workers, are the most likely to be replaced by robots.

Management consultancy firm McKinsey, based in New York, focused on the amount of jobs that would be lost to automation, and what professions were most at risk.

The report said collecting and processing data are two other categories of activities that increasingly can be done better and faster with machines.

This could displace large amounts of labour – for instance, in mortgages, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing.

Conversely, jobs in unpredictable environments are least are risk.

The report added: ‘Occupations such as gardeners, plumbers, or providers of child- and eldercare – will also generally see less automation by 2030, because they are technically difficult to automate and often command relatively lower wages, which makes automation a less attractive business proposition.’

However, Mr Nagai says relying on robots for everything from front desk duty to cleaning had proved an efficient choice in a country with a shrinking labour market.

‘It’s becoming difficult to secure enough labour at hotels’, he added. ‘To solve that problem, we have robots serving guests.’

The hotel opened in March 2017 as is partner to another robotic staffed hotel which is part of the Huis Ten Bosch amusement park in Sasebo, Nagasaki, and opened in 2015.

The £45-a-night ($80) hotel goes beyond using robots as a gimmick and was among the first to use facial recognition technology instead of swipe cards as room keys.

 

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