Japan Hotel Lays Off Robots – They Create Too Much Work

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

We don't know how we'll do without you, but starting Monday we'll try.

Cute, but not that bright.

Even androids are having a tough time finding job security. Japan’s Henn-na “Strange” Hotel has laid off half its 243 robots after the faux-humans created more problems than they solved. You know, kinda like those supermarket self-check-outs?

As the Wall Street Journal first reported, one of the layoffs included a doll-shaped assistant that came with each hotel room. It was called Churi. 

Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa can answer questions about local businesses’ opening and closing times.

Churi couldn’t. 

That was a problem because Churi was supposed to help make up for the Strange Hotel’s skeleton staff by substituting in for human workers.

Others robots now updating their resumes:

  • Two velociraptor robots positioned at check-in were decommissioned because human workers essentially had to do their jobs for them and photocopy guests’ passports manually.
  • Two robot luggage carriers could only reach about 24 of the over 100 rooms in the hotel and failed in rain or snow. The hapless droids would also often get stuck trying to pass by each other.
  • The hotel’s main concierge robot couldn’t answer questions about flight schedules and nearby tourist attractions. That’s a fatal flaw in the concierge biz. So that bucket of bolts and circuits has since been replaced by a human.

Many of the robots that have been retired were in service for years, making them outdated. It happens to the best of us. The hotel decided it was easier to fire them than replace them, citing high costs. 

In the end, a lot of the work the robots were supposed to do could be done more efficiently by humans. And when it came to robot-human interactions, the bots fell short. Not surprising, as humans are a notoriously tricky species, and hard on the circuitry.

The takeaway -- we may still be a little ways off from a completely automated hotel. We’re OK with that. Real travel advisors is also an idea whose time has come!

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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