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Where the Droids Are: Robots Take Over Duties at Hotels Around the World | Frommer's Aethon

Where the Droids Are: Robots Take Over Duties at Hotels Around the World

Gimmick or cost-cutting measure? It's too early to call it a robot revolution, but at these high-end properties, bellboys are sidelined by waist-high robots programmed for maximum cuteness.
You forgot your toothbrush. Again. And while it’s easy enough to call the front desk for a replacement, you’re wrapped in a towel, your hair’s dripping wet, and you don’t have a spare dollar bill for a tip.
Send a quick text to a special number and enter CLEO, a three-foot, 90-pound robot who, within a few minutes, will arrive at your door with no judgments, no expectations, and no understanding of even how to spend a tip.
Rolling butlers like CLEO have become the hottest new hotel amenities, delivering towels, tea, newspapers, and anything else that fits in their one-cubic-foot compartments. 
Some of them even tell jokes to approximate a human interaction. ("Why was the robot mad? Because someone kept pushing his buttons!") And if you punch in a five star-rating on their tablet forehead, they beep, burp and twirl, just like their Star Wars brethren.
Chicago’s Hotel EMC2, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, introduced CLEO and LEO at its ribbon-cutting ceremony in May 2017. Using 3-D cameras, sensors, and wi-fi, the hard-working twins work the hotel’s 22 floors 24 hours a day. They’ve yet to receive a complaint. 
“Robots are really hot right now,” says Lauren Schechtman, VP of marketing and sales at Savioke, a Silicon Valley-based robotics company that has designed robots for more than 75 hotels. “They’ve previously worked in factories and in back rooms, but in the last decade, the operating system has changed so its easier for robots to work among people.”
Here’s where to find them right now: 
Silicon Valley, not surprisingly, was the first U.S. hotel destination to debut a robot butler, in 2014. Botlr, as it's called, hangs out at its charging station near the front desk when it is not working. According to Teresa Soliz, the front desk manager, it's popular and only messes up occasionally. 
“Sometimes, when he gets too many calls, he gets overloaded and starts spinning around in circles,” she said. “And once, even though they’re programmed to stop at the door, he followed a little boy right into the room.”
Rather than being written up or reprimanded, Botlr is simply switched off and rebooted.  
Renaissance Las Vegas

This Vegas hotel has two rolling bell hops named Elvis and Priscilla. A hotel map, programmed into both, enables these trusty robots to navigate elevators, find the appropriate room and, since they have no arms and can’t knock, “robo call” the guest when they arrive with the requested chocolate or balloons or fresh bar of soap. 
LAX’s Residence Inn

Wally’s gig, like his fellow robots, is mainly to perform room service duties, and he’s efficient except when a misplaced tray or cart blocks his path. And then there was that time, a guest dumped a load of wet towels in his compartment and it shorted him out. In those cases, he relies on a monitoring center in Pennsylvania that picks up his distress signal and sets him back on his way. Although Wally has remained mum, his babysitters insist his most exciting job was delivering an engagement ring to a very surprised bride-to-be.
Royal Sonesta Boston

Named Phil, after the character in ABC's Modern Family, the robot at Royal Sonesta Boston is basically a tablet on a self-balancing base. Phil gives site tours and recently filled in for a meeting planner who couldn’t make the flight to Boston, allowing him to virtually visit the hotel, see through its wide-angle lens, remotely control its movements, and communicate via the screen. 
Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel

Eight robots man the floors at this new hotel in San Gabriel. After a Facebook naming contest, the Tug robots (Tre, Darsha, Rich, Gabriel, Coco, Zoey, Ryden, and Robbie) began carting luggage, delivering room service, and picking up dirty linens. Fred Kokash, the hotel's director of sales and marketing, says that even though the Aethon robots are more versatile, they haven’t replaced a single human job. “It just gives the bellmen more time to interact with guests and the housemen more time to clean carpets,” he says.  
Henn Na, Nagasaki, Japan

This 72-room hotel is manned almost entirely by robots. Henn Na means “weird hotel,” and perhaps because it’s affiliated with an amusement park, Huis Ten Bosch, its 10 “employees” are 'bots, from the front desk receptionist (she’s a vicious English-speaking dinosaur) to the porter to the tulip-shaped in-room concierge. Hotel president Hideo Sawada, who touts the labor savings, admits that his robots still can’t make beds.