Robot mishaps turn dream into heartbreak hotel

By Folake Dosu  |  January 17, 2019

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Hotel owner Hideo Sawada created an international stir when he announced plans to run “the most efficient hotel in the world” by employing a majority-robot staff.

It appears that his hopes of efficiency were dashed as Gizmodo reports that more than half of the bots have been shown the door since its 2015 launch, according to an interview Sawada recently had with the Wall Street Journal.

Back in 2015, Sawada had described his vision for his hotel, Henn na, telling the Guardian that the staff would be 90 percent robotic. Sawada told the Wall Street Journal that most of the robots he commissioned were either purely ornamental or trouble-making, providing anecdotes sure to relieve anyone wary of losing job security to robots.

“When you actually use robots you realize there are places where they aren’t needed—or just annoy people.”

“When you actually use robots you realize there are places where they aren’t needed—or just annoy people,” Sawada told the Wall Street Journal, explaining how his hotel first had 80 robots, whose numbers grew to 243, before being slashed by more than half.

For example, Churi, a virtual assistant robot that was put in each guest’s room, disturbed one guest throughout the night by asking “Sorry, I couldn’t catch that. Could you repeat your request?” in response to his snores. The hotel’s TripAdvisor page became riddled with complaints about the chatty robot being incomprehensible and unhelpful, unable to answer basic questions. Failing to meet expectations, Churi was issued a pink slip.

Churi was not the only robot who faltered. Humanoid concierge robots had to leave the premises because they could not assist tourists satisfactorily. Two dinosaur robots at check-in needed human assistance for basic tasks, such as passport copies. “Yes there were robots at check in but had problems scanning our non Japanese passports so a human had to assist,” a guest wrote on TripAdvisor in 2017.

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