July 24, 2019
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Science & Technology

Robots, artificial intelligence serve guests at China's hotel of the future

By Paula Escalada Medrano.

Hangzhou, China, May 8 (efe-epa).- Robots serving guests, doors that open with facial recognition and voice-controlled lighting are some of the features that guests are greeted with at the Alibaba-owned futuristic FlyZoo Hotel in Hangzhou, China.

"Thanks to the advanced technologies of the Alibaba Group the entire hotel has the facial recognition system and also artificial intelligence that improves the guests' stay," a hotel spokesperson told EFE during a tour of the building.

Right from entering reception it is clear that this is not a regular hotel. A huge screen welcomes guests who can check in via an app on their mobile phones or with self-service kiosks in the lobby, all without a receptionist or wait time.

Guests' faces are scanned upon check-in and function as the key to open hotel room doors and elevators.

FlyZoo uses the photos taken during check-in to verify users are staying at the hotel and to allow guests to use common areas such as the gymnasium and a futuristic lounge equipped with an intelligent and interactive screen to enable them to do a tailored workout.

Inside the hotel rooms, the Tmall Genie smart assistant developed by Alibaba and which is similar to Amazon’s Alexa welcomes guests and helps them control the temperature, lights, blinds and television.

It also answers questions such as "What is the WiFi password?" and plays music requested by a simple voice command.

In addition, if guests want something to eat or drink or need hygiene products, they need only to ask the assistant.

This is when the stars of the hotel spring into action: the robots ride the elevators with ease to provide room service to the customers.

"The aim of this type of technology is not to reduce the amount of staff needed but to increase the productivity and efficiency of the hotel, using people in appropriate places instead of making them do repetitive jobs," the spokesperson said.

With the hotel staff freed from routine tasks, they can then focus on providing a better experience to the guests, according to the spokesperson.

"Although it is a hotel of the future, it does not mean that it is completely bereft of people to operate it because that, obviously, is impossible," added the spokesperson, who refused to reveal figures on personnel savings.

The hotel, which has 290 rooms and is located close to the main headquarters of the Alibaba Group, is operated by around 100 workers.

The price for a night's stay at the hotel varies between 600-2,300 yuan (between $89-$340).

FlyZoo Hotel “represents Alibaba’s endeavor to marry hospitality with technology, and ultimately inspire and empower the tourism industry to embrace innovation,” Alibaba Future Hotel CEO Andy Wang said in a statement.

The hotel's spokesperson also assured those concerned about privacy that everything recorded at the hotel is deleted after guests check out, which they can do using their phones after settling their bill. They can then leave as the large screen in the lobby thanks them for their visit.


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