Hideo Sawada, who runs the Henn-na hotel as part of the Huis Ten Bosch amusement park, insists using robots is not a gimmick but a serious effort to utilize technology and achieve efficiency.
The robots are fluent in Japanese and English and it’s claimed they can hold intelligent conversations. The receptionist robot that speaks in English is a vicious-looking dinosaur, and the one that speaks Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes.
It’s not clear whether they would quite pass the Turing test, but they are programmed to be fully functional hotel staff, with other droids are tasked with carting luggage to any of the 72 rooms, and luggage lockers are ‘manned’ by the Cloak Robot, a mechanical arm that would look more at home in a motor factory. The developers have said a second stage opening is due in 2016 that will double the hotel’s capacity to 144 rooms.
While the hotel’s novelty factors will undoubtedly be a huge draw – especially in a nation so au fait with robotics and cutting-edge technology – it seems there are downsides to having a limited human presence. Even in the 33-square-metre Deluxe Type rooms, bed-making facilities are only offered once a week. But we’ll go ahead and assumed beds are cleaned ahead of every arrival…
The Huis Ten Bosch amusement park was opened in 1992 as an “Eco-Friendly Future City” and has been outfitted with numerous environmentally friendly features, such as a system for waste recycling and various features to conserve water and electricity.
The new hotel is also actively working to decrease energy usage and reduce waste via various energy saving means, and prices are reduced through the high-tech staff reduction measures. Even access is based on facial recognition – or by the use of a contactless IC card key that’s issued during your stay.
The Deluxe Type rooms are 44,280 yen a night (US $357) – not much more than the 39,960 yen ($322) price tag for the basic rooms.