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  • 6/16/2024

    Sandbox VR Adds Kitchen, Bar to New Location

    Squid Game Training Room

    Sandbox VR, a full-body virtual reality entertainment experience, plans to add a kitchen and a bar to its newest location in Culver City, Calif. 

    With 48 locations and more than 100k players monthly, Sandbox VR is  growing its global footprint with thriving corporate-owned locations and a robust franchising program.

    "Sandbox VR Culver City's addition of food and drink will make Sandbox VR Culver City a destination for unique and memorable date night experiences, fun-filled family outings, and team-building corporate events," according to a press release.  When contacted by HT, Sandbox VR's PR team was unable to additional details.

    Sandbox VR’s socially immersive gaming experience combines full-body motion capture and high-quality haptics to provide unprecedented realism and complete immersion that’s not possible with home VR systems or other location-based VR venues, taking group Virtual Reality gameplay and active socializing to the next level.

    “Working with strategic partners, like Netflix, to build immersive virtual reality experiences based on beloved existing IP has been integral to our success,” said Steve Zhao, Founder and CEO of Sandbox VR. “With that in mind, we chose Culver City—The Heart of Screenland—for our newest location. The first to boast a kitchen and bar, Sandbox VR Culver City will be the hub for our ongoing collaborations to build new realities based on cherished shows and films.”

    A Virtual Action Movie

    Sandbox VR’s location in Culver City features four private rooms, called “holodecks,” for virtual reality gameplay. Each holodeck enables groups of up to six players to have a truly shared experience, exploring virtual worlds and relying on each other to succeed in games designed to be social experiences. Together with friends, family or co-workers, players are equipped with a haptic vest, motion sensors on their wrists and ankles, and cutting edge VIVE Focus 3 headsets, which combine outstanding visuals with a smarter ergonomic design, superior audio and next level inside-out tracking and controllers. This technology allows players to see and physically interact with one another while feeling like they are in the middle of an action movie, with the heightened emotions that come from not just watching a film, but from actually becoming the stars of the action.

    Guests choose from any of eight exclusive immersive experiences created by Sandbox VR’s in-house team of video game industry veterans:

    ·  Squid Game Virtuals  

    ·  Seekers of the Shard: Dragonfire 

    ·  Deadwood Valley 

    ·  Deadwood Mansion  

    ·  Curse of Davy Jones  

    ·  Amber Sky 2088  

    ·  Star Trek: Discovery 

    ·  UFL: Unbound Fighting League 

     

    After playing, all guests receive personalized highlight videos–similar to movie trailers–which capture all the laughter, screams, intensity, and excitement of their experience.

    caption: Pictured is Squid Game Virtuals,  the newest Sandbox VR experience. Players compete against their crew in several pulse-pounding (yet more approachable, but just as thrilling) mini-games inspired by the  Netflix series. 

  • 6/16/2024

    Hoteliers Embrace AI, but Lagging Tech Holds them Back, says Cloudbeds CEO

    While Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming industries, hoteliers are struggling to embrace it, despite rapid industry growth.  In a recent interview by Hospitality Expert and Influencer Paula Carreirao, CEO Adam Harris explored this disconnect, highlighting both the potential and the roadblocks to AI adoption in hospitality.

    Key takeaways from the interview:

    • AI can solve real hotel problems:
      Instead of chasing the latest tech buzzword, hoteliers should focus on what specific problem they want to address; AI can be the answer to hyper-personalized contact with guests, staff automation, data analysis, and faster content creation.
    • The power of personalization:
      AI powered by natural language processing can personalize guest communication even with limited data.  However, the human touch remains irreplaceable.
    • AI, the review responder’s friend:
      Responding promptly to online reviews is crucial to a hotel’s search algorithms.  AI can automate this process, helping craft appropriate responses and improve search rankings.

    Beyond the hype: The need for collaboration

    Harris acknowledged the confusion surrounding AI's complexity, hype, and potential risks – and that this stands in the way of adoption for hotels.  While some advancements are happening in travel planning (think AI-powered itineraries), the hospitality industry itself hasn't seen a breakout moment yet.

    “Hoteliers wonder if it’s as good as people are saying,” Harris said. However, he believes collaboration between hoteliers and platforms like Cloudbeds can bridge the gap. Cloudbeds has been using ML for the past 10 years in areas such as distribution, application scalability and behind-the-scenes technology, and is now taking those learnings and applying them to solutions such as advertising, online positioning, and reputation management.

    AI can empower the art of hospitality

    Despite its size, the hospitality industry lags behind in technology adoption.  This is particularly concerning with the projected surge in hotel stays by 2030, says Harris.

    “Every hotel is an art – the artist is the owner, and they have a style and a concept, so they have to provide a service to match that.  They have to build their systems around this, and AI can help.  The challenge lies in balancing a hotel's unique character with efficient service.  AI can help navigate this balance, but requires a willingness to pass some control to “robots”.  That can be scary.

    “To do AI and data in the right way, everything that happens needs to go into one single source – and that’s where AI can help.  However, the industry must prioritize education around AI before diving into complex AI solutions. The fact that we have, on average, 20 systems powering the hotel landscape creates too much opportunity for data integrity loss. Data sits in too many places to make it actionable.”

    “Consider the digital door lock – we have the capability to control these locks remotely via our phones.  But despite being around for a decade, only 13% of hotels utilize this technology today.  If basic tech adoption is low, widespread AI adoption seems like a distant future.  I think the industry is afraid of change, not AI.  If we are going to get technical with AI, we need to look at the less technical items first, as these will otherwise stand in the way of AI.”

    By focusing on foundational tech adoption before diving into AI, the hospitality industry can position itself for a future powered by intelligent solutions.

    The interview concluded with the importance of working with a technology partner who listens.  “If we’re not listening to our customers, we’re dead in the water,” Harris concluded.  “Every year, our product and research teams spend thousands of hours talking to and listening to our customers, and I believe that differentiates us from our competitors.  You’ll see some fun things come out of our camp in the near future… I won’t say anymore now, but watch this space.”

  • 6/16/2024

    Thanx, Bite Announce Strategic Partnership to Enhance Guest Experience

    api integration man hands on a pc keyboard

    Thanx, a guest engagement and retention platform for restaurants, announced a strategic partnership with Bite, a provider of intelligent kiosk solutions for fast-casual and quick-service restaurants. This collaboration will streamline the ordering process and enhance the guest experience by seamlessly integrating loyalty into the kiosk ordering flow.

    As labor costs continue to rise, many merchants are turning to self-service kiosks to improve operational efficiency, meet evolving consumer preferences, and enhance the guest experience.

    Customers expect personalized experiences across all restaurant touchpoints. The Thanx and Bite partnership enables restaurants to deliver a seamless, tailored experience to loyalty members at the kiosk, mirroring the personalization found in mobile apps and web ordering platforms. This integration ensures that customers' preferences and past interactions are recognized, allowing for relevant recommendations, promotions, and rewards that enhance satisfaction and strengthen brand loyalty.

    "We recognize the growing importance of self-service kiosks in the quick service and fast casual restaurant industry," says Zach Goldstein, CEO of Thanx. "Our partnership with Bite allows us to provide merchants with a solution that not only enhances operational efficiency but also ensures that loyalty programs remain central to the customer experience at every guest touchpoint."

    Integrated Solution

    With Thanx's robust partner APIs and development support, Bite quickly built a connection to Thanx's loyalty platform, enabling customers to access their rewards and benefits directly from the kiosk ordering interface. The integration offers a seamless customer experience: guests approach the kiosk, build their order, input their loyalty account details, and immediately see applicable rewards. Purchases automatically link to the customer's account, earning them points through Thanx's card-linked loyalty technology. This intuitive flow simplifies the ordering process while ensuring customers can easily access and benefit from their loyalty rewards.

    "As more brands adopt omnichannel strategies, having a loyalty program that spans channels is critical to stay relevant and meet customer expectations," says Brandon Barton, CEO of Bite. "By seamlessly integrating Thanx's cutting-edge loyalty capabilities into our industry-leading kiosk solution, we are providing merchants with a powerful tool to enhance customer engagement, drive repeat business, and foster long-term brand loyalty all while increasing the average check. In today's competitive landscape, delivering a personalized and rewarding experience at every touchpoint is paramount, and this collaboration positions our customers at the forefront of this trend."

    With the integration of Thanx's loyalty platform, customers using Bite’s self-service kiosks can easily access their loyalty benefits, ensuring a frictionless experience that encourages repeat visits and strengthens brand loyalty.

    "Through seamless integration with Thanx and Bite, we've revolutionized the user experience for our guests,” says Caprice Kindgren, Director of Marketing at Urbane Cafe. “Addressing their main request of redeeming rewards on kiosks, this integration has made it effortlessly easy for our guests. Now, with all their rewards visible right on the screen, it's not just a win-win, it's a big win for us.”

    For more information about Thanx and Bite’s partnership and integrated solutions, visit Thanx’s website and Bite’s website.

  • 6/13/2024

    Radisson Hotel Group, Lemongrass and AWS Partner to Deliver Cloud Transformation and Innovative Customer Experiences

    logo, company name

    Lemongrass, a software-enabled services provider synonymous with SAP on Cloud, announced that Radisson Hotel Group (RHG) has selected Lemongrass to migrate their entire SAP landscape to Amazon Web Services (AWS). The project includes transferring existing systems to AWS and optimizing the hotel group’s SAP landscape to leverage Cloud-native efficiencies, such as automation, data analytics, and cost optimization, to deliver enhanced experiences and drive customer loyalty.

    Radisson Hotel Group sought a comprehensive strategy to integrate multiple operations and build a globally unified and scalable corporate IT infrastructure with an agile and cost-effective hosting solution. RHG selected Lemongrass to be its migration partner for its extensive expertise and flawless track record in migrating, operating and optimizing SAP workloads on the Cloud. Lemongrass has over 8,000 SAP servers and over 750,000 SAP users under its management and provides clients with near-zero downtime migrations and operations for SAP and its related workloads.

    Another pivotal component of the migration was RHG’s demonstrated commitment to sustainability. RHG has opted to migrate and run these systems in AWS’s Stockholm region, known for its carbon-neutral operations, to align with the Group’s sustainability and governance objectives. This strategic decision not only supports RHG’s transparent environmental stewardship but will also enhance Radisson Hotel Group’s appeal to eco-conscious guests and business partners.

    “The transition to AWS is more than just a technological upgrade; it is a transformational shift that empowers Radisson to meet the evolving demands of the hospitality industry,” said Jaime González-Peralta, CIO of Radisson Hotel Group. “This migration will set a new standard in our operational capabilities, enabling us to significantly enhance our operational agility, and enable us to bring innovative solutions to market even more rapidly, which are critical for personalizing guest experiences and optimizing our service delivery.”

    Recognizing the complex requirements of RHG’s expansive SAP systems, Lemongrass will employ its patented Minimum Downtime Operations (MDO™) technology, ensuring that Radisson Hotel Group’s operations, remain fully functional with near-zero downtime thereby preventing any potential revenue losses, whilst ensuring systems are secure, performant and available.

    “Radisson Hotel Group is an innovative leader in the hospitality sector and we are very honored to be selected to assist them with their digital transformation,” said Michael Rosenbloom, CEO of Lemongrass. “We look forward to our continued partnership with RHG and AWS to further modernize and support their SAP and Cloud initiatives.

  • 6/14/2024

    BirchStreet Systems Launches Operational Insights to Help Hospitality Customers Attain Operational Goals

    Birchstreet logo
    BirchStreet Systems, a global provider of enterprise procure-to-pay -solutions to the hospitality sector, announced the launch of Operational Insights, an interactive reporting and analytics solution designed to help customers achieve operational goals for Purchasing and Accounts Payable processes and yield substantial cost savings. Operational Insights is the first product in the ongoing ‘Insights’ series targeted specifically to the unique needs of the hospitality industry. The new offering further advances BirchStreet’s leadership position in hospitality by providing cutting-edge technology to its customers, giving them the intelligence they need to improve decision-making abilities and drive efficiencies.
     
    Operational Insights enables users to track key purchase order (PO) and invoice metrics, monitor confirming and late PO rates, trace "Straight Through" or "No Touch" invoice rates, benchmark against peers, and more. This solution not only provides the visibility and control needed to reduce costs and enhance productivity but also leads users to the potential sources of issues for proper corrective action.
    As a result, substantial savings can be achieved. For example, organizations have the potential to save an average of $500,000 in invoice handling costs annually by improving their straight through processing rate from 50% to 75% when processing 1,000,000 invoices per year.
     
    "Operational Insights was developed specifically to address the unique challenges of the hospitality industry where margins are tight and operational efficiency is crucial," said Valerie Layman, BirchStreet’s Chief Product Officer. “In addition to driving better decisions with the right data insights, our customers can now benchmark their organization’s operational performance against industry peers. BirchStreet maintains the most comprehensive hospitality industry procurement data set, providing relevant and targeted insights which directly benefit our customers.”
     
    Operational Insights provides businesses with the ability to meet their key Purchasing and Accounts Payable operational objectives by:
     
    • Gaining visibility into properties and suppliers that do not conform to processes and require corrective actions.
    • Improvement in touchless invoicing rates by ensuring a focus on electronic forwarding of invoices.
    • Mitigating risks of excessive reliance on confirming POs by identifying key suppliers' failures to maintain catalogs.
    • Benchmarking operational performance against industry peers, through BirchStreet’s extensive Hospitality customer base.
    BirchStreet will be conducting demos of the Operational Insights product at HFTP’s (Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals) HITEC conference in Charlotte, taking place June 24-27 in Charlotte, NC. The company is exhibiting in Booth # 2245, along with ReactorNet Technologies, a company that was acquired by BirchStreet in March.
  • 6/13/2024

    PPDS Debuts 13" Philips Tableaux 4150 ePaper Displays

    ppds teaser logo

    PPDS, the exclusive global provider of Philips Professional Displays and complementary hardware and software solutions, is delighted to announce the latest evolution of its multi-award-winning ePaper with Android SoC signage range, launching the new 13” Philips Tableaux 4150 at InfoComm 2024. 

    Unveiled and exhibited on the Philips Booth W2544 inside the Las Vegas Convention Center (June 12-14), the portrait or landscape mountable 13” Philips Tableaux 4150 Series has been designed to deliver greater choice and new opportunities for hotels and resorts looking to introduce or expand their digital signage network – from reception areas, bars, restaurants, cafes, gift shops, wayfinding and more – using revolutionary and highly sustainable, full colour ePaper displays. 

    Driven by feedback from customers, the new 13” Tableaux display marks the latest evolution of PPDS' growing ePaper portfolio, adding to the acclaimed 25” 4150 and 32” 5150 models launched at ISE 2023 and 2024 respectively.

    Maximum impact, minimal power

    Available globally, and featuring a white bezel design, the 13” Philips Tableaux 4150 – developed with PPDS’ longstanding technology partner, E Ink – Philips Tableaux displays are an ideal energy saving solution for hotels and resorts looking to digitise their paper-based signage and communications. The new 13” Philip Tableaux 4150 providing vivid sunlight readable imagery, which can be displayed without using a single kilowatt of electricity indefinitely, only requiring super low power during image changes. 

    For maximum versatility and flexibility, Philips Tableaux displays – designed for 24/7 usage – can operate entirely unplugged, making it ideal for locations with limited or no access to power sources. Weighing just 1.3kg, the 13” 4150 is light enough to be easily transported and used in other locations when required.

    Displaying with a 1600 x 1200 resolution, the 13” Philips Tableaux 4150 ensures clear and confident messaging. What is more, with 16GB internal memory, there is no need for an external media player, keeping costs down and minimising additional future electronic wastage. Simply plug into a power source to upload new static content for instant play via USB, LAN or WiFi connections.

    Tailored for you 

    Andrea Barbuti, Global Product Manager EMEA at PPDS, commented “In businesses, there are always instances where additional and often temporary messaging and communications are required. This could be as simple as warning customers staying at the hotel that the bar, restaurant or store will be closing early on a given day.

    “There are examples of locations where ePaper can provide significant benefits almost everywhere you look. Just walking into the Las Vegas Convention Center this week, I have seen hundreds, maybe even thousands of posters placed along the walls and above escalators, each advertising events and products. These have all been manually placed and will have to be replaced and binned in the coming days. That’s a lot of paper wastage, and unnecessary printing, travel and expense. With Philips Tableaux, all of that is gone. Messages can be created and presented on the Philips Tableaux in a matter of minutes, with the freedom to place the unit wherever is most convenient – temporarily or permanently. Not only does it reduce waste, it looks far more professional, too.”

    Wave of management opportunities 

    As part of PPDS' growing Android SoC family, content updates on the 13” Philips Tableaux 4150 can be managed manually (including USB), or entirely remotely via a range of certified third party professional display control and management partners, as well as PPDS’ cloud-based Wave remote device management platform. 

    With Wave on Philips Tableaux, businesses can securely switch out content at any time and from any location, with firmware upgrades, playlist creation and management, power scheduling and much more, all managed on Wave’s tailored and highly intuitive interface, saving on time, energy, and environmental impact.

    Meet the family

    Martijn van der Woude, VP Global Marketing and Business Development at PPDS, concluded: “PPDS broke new ground in 2023 by becoming the first global display manufacturer to launch a full size, full colour ePaper display. We continue to experience incredible success with our 25” and 32” Philips Tableaux models, with examples of installations in an ever-growing variety of situations, all around the world. At PPDS, our teams are relentless in their quest for providing more energy conscious displays. It was clear listening to our customers that there was an appetite for a smaller ePaper model, bridging the gap between A4 and A3 paper – or in the US between letter and legal sizes.”

    “Our fantastic partnership with E Ink, together with our technical expertise, means we are once again able to respond quickly to the demands of the market with this 13” Philips Tableaux. We are delighted to be launching this, our third full colour ePaper display, at InfoComm 2024 in Las Vegas.”

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