This Japanese hotel will be mostly staffed by life-like robots, and it's creeping us out

Image: Henna-na Hotel.

It's finally happening. Judgement Day has arrived. We're being replaced by robots.

Well, actually, just some hotel staff in Japan are, but nonetheless we're finding the whole thing creepy as hell. 

When it opens in July, the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki prefecture will "employ" ten robot staff members. It claims to be the most "futuristic low-cost hotel in the industry".  Here are some key features:

  • The reception desk will be manned by three "Actroid" robots. These human-shaped robots are multilingual, maintain eye contact, and, completely pointlessly, blink. They also look like giant, life-size dolls:

Image: Kokoro Company Ltd.

  • A slightly less glamorous robot arm will be in charge of handling baggage:

Image: Henn-Na Hotel.

  • Rooms won't have keys; instead, they'll admit guests by using facial recognition technology. Because there's no way that could go wrong. 
  • The hotel's name translates as "Strange hotel", and it's in a Netherlands-themed leisure park. Yep. 

The hotel will have 72 rooms when it opens, and prices will start at $60 a night. Thankfully, there will be some human staff mixed in with the robots – though the hotel is hoping to work up to a 90 per cent robot staff eventually. 

So will the robots actually save the hotel money? When the actroids first went on sale, they retailed at around $225,000, which represents more than a couple of years' worth of a receptionist's salary. (The other, more functional bots are, we're assuming, a bit cheaper.)

The success or failure of the investment will probably depend on whether robots actually make for a more efficient system, or whether, like the real-life staff in some hotels that we won't name, they actually just blink and refuse to answer your questions in any language. 


Podcast: It’s Always Sunny...

The Liberty Bell. Image: Getty.

Once upon a time, Philadelphia was the state capital of Pennsylvania. It was also briefly the capital of the early United States, the country’s financial capital, and its largest city.

Today, it’s none of those things – even the state capital long since moved to Harrisburg, which I bet you’ve never even heard of. This no doubt has an impact on the psyche of a city that was once the most important in the US, but now struggles to make the top five.

To talk about Philly, past, present and future, I’m joined by Nathaniel Popkin. He, along with Joseph E. B. Elliott and Peter Woodall, is the author of the beautifully illustrated book, “Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City” – and had all sorts of fascinating insights into one of the United States’ more historic but lesser known cities.

Incidentally, this week, I’m recording the first ever live Skylines at the New Local Government Network conference in London’s Guildhall. If all goes to plan – If – you should be able to hear that next week. Wish us luck.

The episode itself is below. You can subscribe to the podcast on AcastiTunes, or RSS. Enjoy.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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