Hotel Robot Butler Automates Room Service Delivery


Count bellhop as another human job on the way to obsolescence because of robotics. Simple butler functions can be done by a mobile smart machine which can deliver requested items to hotel rooms.

Naturally, the hotel company manager in the following story assures us that replacing humans is not the plan, but of course it is. A tech website observes that the autonomous delivery robot will be “cost effective.”

Keep in mind that a 2013 Oxford University study found that 45 percent of US jobs are vulnerable to computerization in the next 20 years.

We see smart machines taking human jobs more and more. Certainly America would be ill-served by doubling annual legal immigration — or more as some want, like Republican strategist Ed Rollins who thinks septupling today’s number of over one million would be a fine idea.

Ready for the hotel industry’s first robotic butler?, USA Today, August 12, 2014

Aloft Hotels today announced an unusual hire: A robotic butler, or a Botlr, for short.

A.L.O., as the cyber associate is known, is reporting for training at the Aloft Cupertino in California today. Its first day of work is Aug. 20.

Created by robotics company Savioke, A.L.O. will help Aloft’s human employees with such tasks as delivering amenities to guest rooms and moving linens and towels from the laundry room to guest rooms and to the fitness center.

A.L.O. will dress in a collared uniform and have a name tag. When a guest needs something, a human employee will place the item in the Botlr and enter the room number. Botlr will rush to the room, even taking the elevator, and call the room phone. The guest will open the door and Botlr will open its container so the item can be retrieved.

It does not accept cash as tips. Instead, it asks for tweets. It also has a screen that asks the guest to give it a rating. If it gets a high rating, it will do a small dance.

“We thought the idea was brilliant, a little bit of child wonderment, somewhere between Rosie from the Jetsons, R2-D2, and Wall-E,” says Brian McGuinness, global brand leader of specialty select brands for Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, parent company of Aloft.

McGuinness says the company was “looking to target that next generation of traveler.” Millennials, those typically born in the 1980s and early 2000s, are starting to travel more and spend more money. They also are more technologically savvy.

A.L.O. double-majored in rudimentary tasks and hospitality at Savioke, according to the Starwood announcement.

“In our early testing, all of us at Savioke have seen the look of delight on those guests who receive a room delivery from a robot,” says Steve Cousins, CEO of Savioke. “We’ve also seen the front desk get busy at times, and expect Botlr will be especially helpful at those times, freeing up human talent to interact with guests on a personal level.”

McGuinness says the Botlr will not replace human employees.

“The Botlr is certainly not going to replace the personality or hospitality in our talent,” he says.

Starwood has tested out other new technological advancements at the Aloft Cupertino, including smartphone check-in, keyless entry and in-room Apple TVs.

McGuinness says if all goes well, he expects to hire more Botlrs to join the team.