Imagine checking into a hotel and handing your luggage to a bellhop, but not seeing another human besides other guests. That’s the reality at Henn Na Hotel in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture, where robots have taken over. Robot enthusiast Grant Imahara visits the hotel to see how the hospitality business can succeed without humans.

During his stay, Grant is surprised by the non-humanoid robot he meets at the check-in desk. Maybe he should have known—Henn Na Hotel loosely translates to “strange hotel” in Japanese. Naomi Tomita, the hotel’s Chief Technology Officer, says that using non-humanoid robots can make the interactions less awkward. The hotel encourages guests to chat with the robots while they work. A robot checks Grant’s coat, and a robotic trolley takes his luggage to his hotel room.

Guests can use facial recognition to unlock their room rather than using a key card. Inside they’ll find a virtual assistant that can set up a wake-up call, tell you the weather, and turn off the lights. There are no light switches in the room, only motion sensors, because of the hotel’s mission to save energy. Henn Na is part of a group of hotels with a “Europe in Japan” theme and is inside a Dutch-themed amusement park, which has a zip line, gondola tour, and dazzling light shows.

Grant speaks with CTO Naomi Tomita about the “strange hotel,” and how robots can bring out the best in people and even provide happiness.

After the two get served by a bartender robot, the conversation continues with a discussion about where the next opportunities are for robots in the service industry, and whether there are any jobs in the service industry they can’t do. Are humans ever irreplaceable?

Stay tuned for Grant’s next trip to see the latest robotic innovations in action.



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