How soon until smart robots start filling all kinds of urban roles? Thomas Claburn says they're ready for room service.
Aloft Hotels, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, is set to begin testing its first automated hospitality associate, a robot called A.L.O.
The technocentric hotel group (the art above guests' beds depicts a circuit board) is also testing the flexibility of English and the patience of copy editors by calling its robot a "Botlr," a word which here means "robot butler" rather than "bottler."
A.L.O. is scheduled to report for duty August 20 at the Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, Calif., where it will assist Aloft personnel with the delivery of small items to guests' rooms and the distribution of towels.
Brian McGuinness, global brand leader for Starwood's Specialty Select Brands, said in a statement -- half-serious it seems -- that hiring for the position was a challenge because the company wanted someone who could work around the clock.
Steve Cousins, CEO of Savioke, the company that designed A.L.O. (which is called SaviOne by the company), said in a phone interview that the hope is A.L.O. will free human employees from time-consuming, mundane tasks so they can serve guests more creatively.
"It's a way to empower the staff to take on a bit more," said Cousins. "It allows the desk staff to multitask."
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