Guests at the Starwood-owned Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California, no longer have to worry about having cash on hand to tip their bellhop. The hotel, which is adjacent to the Apple campus, has hired a robotic butler, or “Botlr,” named A.L.O., and the newest “employee” accepts tweets as tips.
The 3-foot-tall, 100-pound Botlr is “dressed” in a custom vinyl collared uniform and has a nametag that reads, “Hi, I’m A.L.O.” It has a touch-screen face, and is able to move along at human speed. Starting on August 20, A.L.O. will assist Aloft’s concierge staff, and autonomously shuffle requested items from the lobby to hotel guest rooms.
When the Botlr arrives at the appropriate guest room, it alerts the guest to its arrival. Equipped with a sensor and an onboard camera, A.L.O. will know when the guest opens the door. Once the door opens, the robot will open its compartment top and provide the guest with instructions through its touch-screen face on how to remove the item and close the lid. And before it leaves, A.L.O. will ask the guest, “Did you get everything you requested?”
A.L.O. learned to conduct rudimentary tasks and hospitality at Savioke, a start-up that creates autonomous robots for the services industry. The introduction of A.L.O. is part of Aloft Cupertino’s “Cool Concierge” program that aims to cater to tech-savvy travelers.
“It’s a big step toward putting robots in service for tasks we’re accustomed to sending people in for,” says Mike Dory, executive director of technology at global marketing agency KBS. “And this highlights a new trend for robotics, moving away from a focus on machine precision to one of human precision, making devices ‘softer’ and more approachable for the general population while also making them more cost-efficient to build.”
And Starwood is no stranger to high-tech features. Before this robotic butler, the hotel had tested some other cutting-edge gadgets and services, including a mobile app that could unlock the door of a hotel room.
“Savioke is very excited to be piloting this program at Starwood’s Aloft Hotel,” Steve Cousins, chief executive officer (CEO) of Savioke, tells ClickZ in an email. “We are hoping to combine with the hotel staff to delight and amaze the hotel guests.”
Perhaps the most lovable quality of the Botlr is that different from a human bellboy, A.L.O will not ask for real money as tips. Instead, guests can tip A.L.O. with tweets and selfies, using the hashtag #MeetBotlr.
“#MeetBotlr has the potential to connect both the online and offline worlds,” says Brad Eshbach, director of content innovation at social media agency socialdeviant. “It will let non-guests get a glimpse of the hospitality, excitement, and overall vibe of the Starwood properties.”
A.L.O. is the first robotic butler at Aloft Cupertino, but more Botlrs will join and serve the hotel’s guests in the upcoming months.
Looking forward, KBS’s Dory believes that this type of technology could also be applied in other areas in the future, including food and beverage services, way-finding services, as well as pick-up and drop-off services.