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Japanese hotel to use robot staff

/ 11:52 PM June 26, 2015
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Henn-na Hotel will start using robots as staff, developed by Osaka University and manufactured by a company called Kokoro.

This July, a Japanese hotel is set to open with not one but ten unlikely members of staff: robots. Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki prefecture will use three of their robots as receptionists, which are multilingual to facilitate guests from across the world.

The robots were developed by Osaka University and manufactured by a company called Kokoro, which calls their creations “actroids” (acting androids). The actroids can respond to body language and make eye contact, making them disturbingly human-like. Besides the three receptionist robots, there will be porter and service robots, cloakroom attendants and cleaners. Ten human members of staff will be there to supervise the robots and help guests where needed.

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A one-night stay at the robot hotel will cost in the region of ¥7,000, which isn’t hugely expensive compared to a lot of the other upmarket hotels in the area, which is set in a theme park called Huis Ten Bosch. The robots actually allow the hotel to cut costs, with their renewable energy and power saving equipment. In addition to robotic staff, guests will be given the option of facial recognition technology in place of room keys.

Today’s actroids are the latest in a long line of actroid models, which have been in development since 2003. Even back then, the robots could understand 40,000 phrases in four different languages (English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean) and could give more than 2,000 different answers to people’s questions. Since then, they have even starred in plays and worked in hospitals. Ten years later, it looks like these robots are now ready to go mainstream, starting with their new hotel roles.

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Actroids are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the “robotification” of modern life. Here are some other jobs we’re already giving to our robotic counterparts:

Stockroom attendants

Amazon is already using robots in their stockrooms, which have recently been added to their workforce. The robots deliver items from the shelves to members of staff who then scan them. Astoundingly, this saves the human stockroom workers 20 miles of walking each day. It has also tripled the amount of work they can complete in a single hour.

Sportsmen and gamers

Sporting enthusiasts beware. Since 2005, an annual event called Robocup has been running, also known as the Robot Soccer World Cup. Its aim is to develop a team of robotic footballers that will be good enough to take on human teams by 2050. In 2007, a robot called Topio was developed by a Vietnamese electronics firm that could play human opponents at table tennis. In fact, not even the humble game of Bingo is the same these days. It’s highly possible that there will be robot bingo callers very soon, and online bingo is already going strong.

Farmers

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It’s easy to see why robots are better at backbreaking farm tasks than us humans. We already use farm robots to prune the vines at vineyards, and lettuce picking robots which use their superhuman strength to effortlessly pluck lettuce from the ground at the roots.

Housekeepers

Perhaps the most widespread use of the robot for the general public is the robot cleaner. The robotic vacuum cleaner iRobot has been steadily gaining popularity in recent times, especially since starring in a viral cat video.

Bar tenders

One cruise ship company has begun to use robots instead of bar tenders. Royal Caribbean uses the robots on its Quantum of the Seas ships, which can make up to 300 different cocktails. The robots cost around $5,000 each.

Bank tellers

Barclays is just one well known bank that has moved from human bank tellers to automated ones in the last year or so. How many more will follow suit?

WATCH: Robot attendant

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TOPICS: acting androids, actroids, Artificial Intelligence, Henn-na Hotel, Kokoro, Robocup, Robot Soccer World Cup, robotification, Robots, Topio
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