Japanese hotels turning to robots
Tokyo, Japan – 15 May 2017 –
Desperate to overcome Japan’s growing shortage of labour, mid-sized companies are planning to buy robots and other equipment to automate a wide range of tasks, including hotel room service, Reuters reported.
“The share of capital expenditure devoted to becoming more efficient is increasing because of the shortage of workers,” said Seiichiro Inoue, a director in the industrial policy bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
The government predicts investment in labour-saving equipment will rise this fiscal year, Inoue said. The way Japan copes with an ageing population will provide critical lessons for other ageing societies, including China and South Korea, that will have to grapple with similar challenges in coming years.
Robots and labour-saving gear are being sought by property developers, food and beverage makers and hotel chains.
The Hen na Hotel, or the “Odd Hotel,” near Tokyo Disneyland, for example, bills itself as a robot hotel because it uses 140 different robots and artificial intelligence to serve guests in its 100-room hotel and can operate with as few as two to three people, according to manager Yukio Nagai.
Each room contains an egg-shaped robot, or personal assistant, called Tapia, that uses artificial intelligence to recognise people’s faces and respond to their voice commands. It can wake you up, manage your schedule, and control other internet-linked devices like the TV and air conditioning. Other robots can carry bags and take out the trash.
“Originally we sold this product for use in the home, but now we are getting a lot of enquiries from companies,” said Sayaka Chiba, a director at MJI Co, which makes the Tapia.
“Banks, hospitals, and hotels are interested in using Tapia for reception work and communicating with customers.”