It may sound laughable now, but one day soon you may be sitting next to Pepper the robot during a customer service workshop.
Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer at MGM Resorts International, had the pleasure of meeting Pepper and says there’s definitely a use for this type of technology to improve efficiencies in the industry.
“Let’s say you forgot your toothbrush. Instead of standing in line at a concierge’s desk or waiting on a human to deliver your toothbrush, towels or other amenities, hotels will be able to dispatch robots that can take the elevator, navigate between floors and deliver items to you,” he adds.
Microsoft and SoftBank Robotics are working together to create a next-generation, cloud-enabled robotic system using Pepper, the plastic, friendly-looking robot on wheels with a chest-mounted tablet for web browsing, giant eyes with cameras for emotion tracking, and hands for body gestures. It also costs just $1,600 ($200 in monthly fees, though). When Japan’s SoftBank recently put 1,000 Pepper robots up for sale, they sold out in less than a minute.
It’s no wonder we love Pepper, a human-shaped robot designed to be kindly, endearing and surprising. Pepper can identify your emotions and select the behavior best suited to the situation. To date, more than 140 SoftBank Mobile stores in Japan are using Pepper as a new way of welcoming, informing and amusing their customers.
The use of robots in the hospitality industry is playing out full-scale in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture, an enormous theme park dedicated to imperial Holland, which is host to the Henn-na Hotel (literal meaning: Strange Hotel), the world’s first hotel staffed by robots. Staying at the Henn-na Hotel takes guests on a step into the future. At the front desk, multi-lingual robots help guests check in or check out. At the cloakroom, the robotic arm stores your luggage—and the porter robots will carry them to your room. Once guests are registered, the face-to-face recognition system frees guests from the hassle of carrying around the room key.
“At the end of the day, robotics can offer a more efficient experience,” says Dominguez, who now considers himself a friend of Pepper and hopes to be sitting next to him in another class in the near future.