Skip to content

Here Come the Robots: Hotel EMC2, Autograph Collection in Chicago

May 20, 2018
8 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Marriott's Autograph Collection can be a bit of a mixed bag. Some hotels take full advantage of the opportunity to showcase their creativity and uniqueness, while others fall short of their lofty promises. I'd heard great things about Hotel EMC2 in Chicago from a friend, but I'll admit I didn't get it at first (please don't tell my physics professor!). On the hotel's website when I read that they claim to be the "intersection of art and science" (E=mc2, duh), I knew I had to check it out for myself.

Booking

Rates for this property were much lower than I was expecting for an Autograph Collection hotel in a major city, but I was able to book a one-night stay for only $133 after taxes.

I paid using my Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card to earn 5x points for the stay. When added to the 15 points per dollar I earned as a Platinum elite, my total for this stay was 2,375 points. I also earned another 3,000 points thanks to Marriott's MegaBonus promotion. This was my second stay of the quarter, which earned me 2,000 points plus another 1,000 because my stay included a weekend night. All together, my 5,375 points were worth about $48 according to TPG's latest valuations, giving me a total return of 36% on my spend. Not bad! If I'd been looking to redeem points, this Category 8 property would've cost 40,000 points a night, worth about $360, so clearly paying cash was the way to go.

Location

EMC2 is located in a prime spot, just a block and a half away from Michigan Avenue and the never-ending shops and restaurants on the Magnificent Mile. I liked that it wasn't actually on Michigan Avenue, though, as there was less traffic when I was coming and going. If the weather had been a bit nicer, I could have taken advantage of the five-minute walk to Navy Pier and its new and improved Ferris wheel. The hotel was about a 35-minute drive from both O'Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW) airports, and less then half a mile to a CTA Red Line station.

Check-in

Space is at a premium in downtown Chicago, and this hotel didn't waste an inch of it. In fact, I ended up walking past the entrance twice before figuring out which door to go in.

The lobby was incredibly narrow, with only a few feet separating the check-in desks from the elevator banks. If more than two people were waiting in line, this area could have gotten crowded quickly.

Thankfully, there was no wait, and I was helped immediately. A friendly agent gave me a breakfast voucher to use at the hotel's restaurant, Albert (as in Einstein, get it?) and explained some of the quirkier features of this property, like its 21st-century butler service. More on that later...

Room

Thanks to my Platinum status, I was upgraded to a king room with a city view on the 14th floor. The hallway felt like a better-lit version of the W Chicago Lakeshore and even featured a cool LED display of Albert Einstein that was consistently doodling over itself, as you can see in these before and after pictures.

At 320 square feet, the room was barely larger than a standard guest room (285 square feet), and my supposed city view was just the sides of other tall buildings.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

The bathroom was right inside the door and had a brightly lit mirror, as well as a little flower made out of newspaper in a test tube. The shower was exposed, with a privacy curtain that also blocked the bathroom, which is worth noting if you're traveling with someone. I loved the design of the room, with shiny brass pipes complementing the dark walls and floors. When buildings go for the modern industrial look, they often end up looking lazy and unfinished. The execution here was flawless, both in function and form.

On the left side of the desk was a brass horn with a card over it that said "music to my ears." If you put your phone in that slot, the horn amplified the sound so that it was louder than my computer at full volume — a really cool feature that more hotels should consider adding to their guest rooms! I don't know if I was the only one using the feature or if the hotel was just well-insulated, but I never heard a sound from any of the other rooms on the floor.

The room also featured an Amazon Echo Dot, along with a list of hotel-specific requests you could ask Alexa for.

Food and Beverage

Breakfast was free for Platinum members and served in the Albert restaurant on the other side of the lobby.

The spread was pretty standard and included eggs, bacon, oatmeal, yogurt, fruit and a special EMC2 blend from the local Sparrow Coffee. Once again, the attention to detail was fantastic. Above the food were loft bookshelves and more brass pans, creating a laid-back coffeeshop atmosphere. Meanwhile, hanging above the bar was a unique sculpture that was quite literally a mix of chemistry equipment and potted plants.

The food was good but not especially memorable, but my one complaint is that the restaurant ruined the relaxing atmosphere by blasting music from The Chainsmokers over the speakers at 9:00am.

Amenities

The hotel had a gym on the fourth floor with treadmills, ellipticals, free weights and other machines. The mirrors on all four walls made the room feel much larger than it actually was, but I found myself awkwardly making eye contact with people behind me while on the treadmill.

My server at breakfast was top notch. With only three other customers in the restaurant, he devoted all of his attention to me, giving me a personal tour of all the food choices and making sure my coffee never dipped below half full. In fact, all the humans I interacted with at the hotel were incredibly nice.

That being said, the real stars of the show were the two robot butlers, Leo and Cleo.

Parts and Service

These surprisingly intelligent droids could navigate their way around the hotel, delivering almost any items to the rooms in place of a human. (They couldn't deliver food because of health codes.) I put in a request for an extra, robot-delivered bottle of water at the front desk. A few minutes later, my TV turned on to alert me that my water had arrived.

Sure enough, Cleo was waiting outside my room with the waters and a quick two-question survey about its service and how I was enjoying my stay. Needless to say, I gave five Cleo stars.

When I first heard about the robots, I was worried they would be a little too gimmicky and not especially practical. It wasn't until I was leaving that I bumped into both robots navigating the elevators by themselves and realized just how much time and effort they can save.

Overall Impression

I had a really enjoyable stay at EMC2 and loved the unique, the well-thought-out design and, of course, the super-helpful robots roaming the halls of the hotel. If the rates stay this low, I'd happily stay here again.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023