Japan hotel fires ‘annoying’ robot staff and replaces them with humans
One hotel in Japan learned the hard way that robots are not always right for the job.
Henn na Hotel in Tokyo is laying off half of its nearly 250 robots because they failed to do their automated tasks and humans had to intervene in their operations, the Wall Street Journal via Business Insider reported on Jan. 17.
The hotel began employing robots in 2015 with the goal of becoming “the most efficient hotel in the world” and to respond to a worker shortage.
Those laid off included Churi, a pink, egg-shaped virtual assistant assigned in each room, who could not keep up with the likes of Siri and Alexa. For instance, she failed to answer guests’ questions on opening hours of local businesses.
Similarly, a robot serving at the hotel concierge was replaced by a human because it also could not respond to basic questions like tourist attractions and flight schedules.
Velociraptor robots manning the front desk are on the chopping block, too, because humans had to photocopy guests’ passports themselves. Robot luggage carriers have to go likewise, after reaching only 24 of the 100 rooms in the hotel and being able to work only on flat surfaces.
But the value of the robots has been appreciated: the hotel chain plans to develop a new set of robot employees, reported the South China Morning Post on Jan. 16.
Hotel owner Hideo Sawada told the Wall Street Journal: “When you actually use robots you realize there are places where they aren’t needed — or just annoy people.” Niña V. Guno /ra