Robots Fired From Japan Hotel for Not Being Human Enough

Jan 29, 2019

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If you’re afraid that robots will soon take over the travel industry, fear not — that day has yet to come.

The Japanese hotel that made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s first robot-staffed hotel when it opened in 2015 has just laid off about half of its 243 robots, according to The Verge.

Though robots are being deployed in hotels around the world to help with mindless tasks such as transporting luggage and delivering room service, it turns out they don’t always save humans time and effort. In the case of the Henn-na Hotel, in the Nagasaki Prefecture, the robots were actually creating more problems for the human staff to solve.

TPG points and miles writer, JT Genter, stayed at the Henn-na Hotel with his wife Katie in 2017, and described some of the robots’ shortcomings in his review, including the way the in-room robot “loved to randomly jump into our conversations.”

Those in-room robots (there was one for every room in the hotel) have since been axed. Though they were supposed to provide helpful information like Siri or Alexa, they didn’t have the answers to basic questions like when the theme park neighboring the hotel would open.

Photo by JT Genter
Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy.

Worse yet, the concierge robot wasn’t able to help guests with questions about flight schedules and nearby attractions, prompting the hotel to replace it with a human.

Other robots that have been fired include two velociraptor robots that were supposed to ease the check-in process — but couldn’t actually scan guests’ passports — and two robot bellhops that often got stuck trying to bypass each other and failed entirely if it was raining or snowing. They were only able to reach 24 of the hotel’s 100 rooms, anyway.

“The robots at Henn-na Hotel were a bit of a disappointment. It felt gimmicky rather than legitimately robot-assisted, as it was sold. Multiple robots weren’t even working during our stay and others seemed to require more human interaction than one would hope from a robot hotel,” Genter said.

“Still, Katie and I are surprised that they’re ditching the robots, as that was the hotel’s main feature.”

The hotel reportedly decided not to replace the outdated and inefficient robots due to high costs. Perhaps the owners would do better to invest in basic amenities rather than robots that aren’t actually that helpful.

Featured photo by JT Genter.

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