The hospitality industry embraces automation.
This chain of capsule hotels is renowned for its creative use of technology, and the New York branch, in particular, has become famous for its automated luggage handler. The Yobot, as it’s called, is practically a tourist attraction in itself as it goes about its mesmerizing performance art of storing baggage. The 4.5-meter robotic arm, normally used in factory assembly, is housed behind a glass panel in the reception area, where it organizes property into a wall of lockers. The automation continues as guests check in and out at electronic kiosks, and all rooms feature motion detectors to control lighting and air conditioning. There’s also a techno wall that can screen multimedia content. Adjustable smart beds convert into a couch with the touch of a button — a useful feature in the compact rooms. And guests in the VIP View Suites can avail themselves of the rotating king beds that turn to face the 180-degree views of the New York City skyline. From $162/night.
Henn-na Hotel—Sasebo, Japan
Opened in 2015, the Henn-na, meaning “Strange Hotel” in English, is operated almost entirely by robots. Forming part of the Huis Ten Bosch, a Dutch-style theme park, guests are greeted at the reception desk by a pair of multilingual robots in the form of a dinosaur and a female android. Once checked in, an automated trolley transports luggage to the rooms, the doors to which are opened by face-recognition technology. All 72 rooms feature a bedside robot assistant that can, among other things, adjust the lighting and provide weather forecasts. Conventional air conditioning is replaced by a climate system featuring sensor panels which automatically adjust temperature based on body heat. Although delightfully kitsch, the Henn-na is more than just a gimmick. In fact, its success led to the opening of a second robot-run Henn-na near the Tokyo Disney Resort last March. According to the owners, the hotel is a serious effort to achieve maximum efficiency through technology. With low staff costs and reduced energy consumption, savings can be passed onto customers in the form of reasonable room rates. From US$195/night.
1828 Smart Hotel—Buenos Aires
Unusually for such a small boutique hotel, 1828 Smart Hotel has fully embraced technology. Guests staying in any one of the 14 luxuriously marbled rooms are given a tablet that serves as a cross between a concierge and a personal assistant. Using this device, visitors are able to order room service or taxis, set climate control, and even open and close curtains. Without getting out of bed, they can also adjust the lighting, operate the smart TV and even instruct the fragrance unit to emit a puff of heavenly scent. Come evening, guests are entertained in the lobby by a digital baby grand piano magically tinkling its own ivories while the lights in the small illuminated pool at the rear pulse in time to the music. Although technology is at the front and center of this four-star establishment, patrons who prefer to engage with actual humans can always seek assistance from the ever-present friendly staff. From $226/night.
NH Collection Madrid Eurobuilding—Madrid
The ultra-high-definition TVs, ambient lighting and high-speed Wi-Fi available here are pretty much standard at high-end hotels. However, the four-star Madrid Eurobuilding has positioned itself at the cutting edge of innovation. The four rooms situated on the 12th floor, known as Living Labs, were created to showcase the latest in hospitality tech. These spaces are constantly evolving with the latest developments, such as tablets that connect visitors with hotel staff; furniture with built-in chargers (place your smartphone on the bedside table and it charges automatically); and bathrooms with projectors in the ceiling, so guests can watch TV while they shower. Meanwhile, the glass divider separating the bathroom and bedroom becomes fully opaque at the touch of a button. Rooms boast floor sensor lights, so if you get up in the middle of the night, sensors detect the motion and automatically turn on dimmed lights under the bed and on the bathroom floor. This was the first hotel in the world to offer 3-D holographic projection technology, used to “beam” life-sized holographic images from one location to another. In the lobby, 2.5 million lamps can project movies and visuals on the ceiling, creating one of the largest LED screens in Europe. From $147/night.