Robotic hotel staff: A byte to eat

STARWOOD HOTELS is rolling out a robot to help fulfil room-service requests for its guests. The butler known as a “botlr” is being tested in its Cupertino hotel in Silicon Valley (naturally) with a view to expanding its presence worldwide. Botlrs come complete with bow ties and resemble a cutesy cross between Disney’s Wall-E and R2-D2 from Star Wars. As well as having novelty value, they are capable of delivering room-service orders by navigating lifts and corridors before dialling the occupant’s room number to announce their arrival.Unions, fearing for members’ jobs, have taken a dim view. One denounced Botlrs as gimmicky and unable to offer the human touch or level of service that a real person can provide. On the other hand Botlrs could singlehandedly dispense with the often awkward and always costly practice of tipping room-service staff. It is true they lack the human touch. But then again they won’t hover around your room showing you how the television, curtains, shower and telephone work until you peel off a five dollar bill to regain your privacy. All that a Botlr asks for a tip is a tweeted thank you, and it is unlikely that it will bemoan your miserliness if you don’t comply.For business travellers this is something of a mixed bag. The human touch that the union referred to is a largely redundant factor in room service, which is a transactional activity. …

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