Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Nagasaki's Strange Hotel

Image credit:!slide=3549873; and Shizuo Kambayashi/AP

The Japanese have always been at the forefront at deploying robots to perform jobs that are traditionally done by humans. Over the past year, humanoid robots have been seen helping customers at Mitsubishi Bank, selling Nestle's espresso machines and even filling in for human science communicators at museums. Hence, it is not surprising to hear that the country is now home to a 72-room hotel that is staffed almost entirely by the Androids!
The aptly named Henn-na ("strange" in Japanese) Hotel which opened its doors on July 17, 2015 is located at Nagasaki's Huis Ten Bosch theme park. It is the brainchild of Hideo Sawada, a Japanese entrepreneur who is captivated by the possibility of replacing humans with robots. His aim is have this futuristic lodging be run primarily by the intelligent humanoids with minimal human intervention.
The English-speaking receptionist is a vicious-looking animatronic dinosaur, and the one speaking Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes. “If you want to check in, push one,” the dinosaur says. The visitor still has to punch a button on the desk and type in information on a touch panel screen.
Of course, a hotel this futuristic is too cool to hand out mundane items like keycards. Instead, guests can access their rooms using the sophisticated facial recognition technology that is installed next to every door.
Once inside, visitors will not have to fumble around to switch on lights or set alarm clocks. All they have to do is ask their very own personal assistant, a cute little electronic robot called Tuly, to do it for them.
And don't even bother seeking out the thermostats to adjust the room temperature. That's because the hotel is not equipped with air-conditioning. Instead, it is kept cool with the help of energy-efficient features like heat-absorbing bricks, reflective paint and solar panels, as well as a network of sophisticated radiator panels.
Additionally, the roof is designed at an angle that allows the winter sun in but blocks out the harsh summer rays. Each room is also equipped with sensor panels that monitor the temperature and ensure it is comfortable at all times. The unique system purportedly reduces energy usage by as much as 30%, helping both the hotel's bottom line and the environment.
But Sawada said the robots still can’t make beds.
Another area in which Henn-na Hotel still relies on humans is security. It is dotted with security cameras, and real people watch everything through a monitor to ensure guests are safe and no one makes off with an expensive robot.
Rooms will cost from £40 (Y7,000) per night for a single and from £50 (Y9,000) for a twin – a bargain for Japan, where a stay in one of the nicer hotels can easily cost twice or three times that much.
As you know, Japan is a world leader in robotics technology, and the government is trumpeting robotics as a pillar of its growth strategy.
Robots have long been used in manufacturing but interest is also high in exploring the potential of robots in human interaction, including helping care for the elderly.
Robotics is also key in decommissioning the three reactors in Fukushima, northern Japan, which went into meltdowns in 2011, in the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl.
On Tuesday evening, I was at the Shah Alam Toastmasters meeting in Shah Alam, Selangor – where I delivered CC #7 titled “Who Says Smoking is Dangerous?” and I was even voted Best Assignment Speaker!

Anyway, I captured these pictures of the said meeting:


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