Automation Marches On: Japan’s Robot Hotel


Here’s a safe prediction for 2017:  By January 1st 2018, the world will be more automated than it is today.

Probably not yet as automated as the Henn-na Hotel near Nagasaki, Japan, though. Science writer Bobbie van der List stayed there last month, and wrote up the experience for Discover magazine.

After entering the front doors, which open automatically, I feel the sense that I’m in another time; this truly is a robot hotel. Robots behind the reception desk, robots clean the windows, there’s a robot cloakroom attendant, a robot luggage trolley and even a robot playing the piano.  [Welcome to the Hotel Automata by Bobbie van der List; Discover, December 21st 2016.]

There are still some bugs to be worked out.

In the hallway of the hotel we see a trolley robot struggling. Just before the finish line (the room), an error message pops up on the touch screen attached to the trolley. It informs us to call in the help of a back office staff member—it appears humans are still needed to keep the gears churning.

Given the famous (well, to followers of robotics news) difficulties that developers have had getting a robot to fold towels, I’m also wondering how the beds got made up so neatly.  Can robots do hospital corners?

The Henn-na Hotel is pretty impressive none the less, and shows how doggedly the Japanese are going at the problem of a dwindling labor force.

May I quote myself, please?  Thank you.

wearedoomedIt is a plausible general principle that, when the human race in its overall development comes to some kind of bridge, the first nation to cross the bridge successfully has a great advantage over other nations.  Britain was the first nation to industrialize, and dominated world affairs for a century afterwards.  If demographic decline is inevitable—which of course it is:  the Earth must have some maximum carrying capacity—the first nation to get through the transition intact, and conquer the associated problems, will be at a huge advantage.  On current showing, that will be Japan.  [We Are Doomed, Chapter 11.]