The long-expected robot apocalypse came closer to reality this week with word that a Japanese company plans to open a hotel that's operated by 10 humanoid robots, along with other staff.
The hotel, whimsically named Henn-na, or "strange", is slated to open 17 July at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park near Nagasaki, Japan, according to Japanese Tourism's translation of the press release.
Three of the first robots will be front desk clerks, supposedly, with two being housekeepers, two being porters, and the rest filling odd jobs.
Company president Hideo Sawada believes the robots will keep labor costs down, making it part of the growing "low-cost hotels", or LCH, sector.
Ten humans will help to start, but Sawada wants to eventually to have 70% of operations run by the lifelike machines.
The hotel will source its robots from Kokoro, which makes Actroid androids; Aldebaran Robotics; and Yaskawa Electric, according to IDG News Service.
The 72-room portion of the hotel is scheduled to open on 17 July, but it doesn't yet accept bookings. When it does start taking reservations, it is supposed to use an auction model for pricing rooms.
It would not be the world's first hotel with robots. In Shenzhen China, the Pengheng Space Capsules Hotel uses many robots--though they mostly serve as moving decorations.
In the US, Starwood's Aloft brand recently announced that it was testing the chain's first robo-butler, named ALO.
Humanoid robots are a tall order. As Erico Guizzo, the robotics editor at the IEEE Spectrum has said:
"Lots of people have been working on humanoid robots for decades, but the electric motors needed to drive a robot’s legs and arms are too big, heavy, and slow."
NB: Images courtesy Japan National Tourism Organisation