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Robots in Hospitality: Five Trends on the Horizon

There’s no denying it: robots are becoming common helpers in hospitality, showing up in hotels and restaurants around the world. From Japan’s all-robot hotel, to Hilton’s robot concierge, to Savioke’s autonomous delivery robot, Relay, robots that serve hotel staff and guests are a growing trend. Robots are proving their value in restaurants, too, preparing meals, taking orders and even delivering food.
Hospitality robots are clearly at a tipping point. They’re now cost-effective to build, are attaining cultural acceptance, and use sophisticated technology to safely live and work among us. But what’s next in this fast-moving field? In this article, Savioke discusses five key robot trends set to emerge in the hospitality sector.
  1. The number of people helped by hospitality robots will double by the end of 2017. Service robots that deliver room service, clean your hotel room, or entertain your kids are becoming more common – and they’ll become even more so in the coming year. As a December 2016 report on from Silicon Valley Robotics association says, robots’ roles in society are moving from “doing dirty, dull, and dangerous work to helping improve the lives of ordinary people.” In the near future, Savioke expects Relay to be joined by other “helper robots” that carry bags, give directions, clean rooms, and perform other low-level tasks that free up hotel staff to spend more time assisting guests.
  2. Robots will create a large number of jobs in hospitality and other sectors. Despite claims that robots will eliminate millions of jobs, they seem to be having the opposite effect. In fact, among hotels that use Relay robot, several have had to hire additional staff due to an increase in occupancy rates attributable to the robot. And it’s not just hotels using robots that will benefit. The robotics market is growing so exponentially fast, there will be huge demand for robot designers, engineers, programmers and business experts. To respond to this demand, higher education institutions have already added new robotics majors that span instruction in engineering, computer science, psychology, and kinesiology. And robots won’t just create jobs for highly-educated people. Service robots will help boost business in hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and other consumer-facing businesses - leading to increased revenues and additional hiring.
  3. Hospitality will be a pioneering industry for human-robot Interaction. Unlike robots on assembly lines or in factories, which are kept in cages for safety and only used by trained technicians, robots in hotels and restaurants must be easy to use and safe for everyone. They must be approachable, non-threatening, and helpful. And they must communicate clearly what they’re doing and where they’re going so people are delighted but never surprised. That’s why current hospitality robots will be a foundation for future robot design, especially for collaborative robots used in human environments. Roboticists will learn which robot features appeal to people - and which make them feel uncomfortable - so they can build robots that have the size, shape, sounds, movement, and personality that appeal to a wide swath of people, even those who’ve never seen a robot before. The best robot designers will also incorporate psychological principles (like empathy and emotional connection) to ensure success.
  4. Robots will be a critical data source. As robots perform tasks, they generate and collect all kinds of interesting data about customer satisfaction, purchase patterns, and other behaviors. Silicon Valley Robotics says, in 2017, robots will become “active mobile big data collectors” that can “unlock data-driven insights with potentially enormous additional business upside by leveraging the ubiquitous connectivity that is being made possible by cloud computing.” Since robots are machines connected to larger IoT networks, they can serve as data collection points as they interact with people or complete their tasks. It’s still early days in using robots for data analytics, but the use of robot-generated data to improve business processes and ROI in the hospitality industry is upon us.
  5. Anxiety about robots will be replaced with feelings of comfort and delight. Many people, particularly in the United States, have a lingering fear about robots, most likely due to the way they’re depicted in science-fiction movies. But that fear will dissipate as robots prove their value in terms of helping improve our lives. Just as ATMs, computers, and smartphones have become a part of everyday life, soon helper robots will just be accepted as tools to increase happiness and productivity and make life easier. The last vestiges of anxiety about robots will subside when people realize their immense value.

With hospitality leading in robot adoption, millions of people staying in hotels and eating in restaurants will soon come into contact with them. And we’ll soon see robots appear in other human environments such as stores, apartment buildings, and hospitals. Acceptance will happen quickly – just as people embraced smartphones seemingly overnight – ensuring that robots move from being novelties to useful, everyday helpers.

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