A Japanese hotel has fired hundred of its robotic staff because they weren't doing a good job. The Henn-na “Strange” Hotel in Nagasaki Prefecture has laid off 243 robots after they started to cause more work for their human colleagues.
One of the robots that got the ax was a doll-shaped assistant placed in each room called Churi. Churi was supposed to help guests plan their stay by answering questions about local attractions.
However, Churi struggled even to answer a simple request like “What time does the theme park open?” Guest instead turned to human staff for help that reportedly caused problems for them in getting other work done.
Robo-receptionists fired for failure to photocopy
Other robots that were fired in the large cull included two velociraptor receptionists who were intended to greet guests and assist with check-ins, but the robots were not able to manually photocopy the guest passports - a requirement when checking into a Japanese hotel - so again their tasks were being taken over by humans, thus rendering the robots useless.
The hotel describes itself as “the world-first hotel staffed by robots.” Its website describes your hotel stay saying, “At the front desk, you will be greeted by multi-lingual robots that will help you check in or check out. At the cloakroom, the robotic arm will store your luggage for you. Mechanic yet somehow human, those fun moments with the robots will warm your heart. Furthermore, once you register your face with our face recognition system, you will be free from the hassle of carrying the room key around or worrying about losing it.”
Unfortunately, the robots aren't quite up to the task. It seems the older generation robots just couldn’t keep up and upgrading would have been too costly. The baggage robots, for example, could only access 24 out of the 100 rooms of the hotel and the two robots were rendered useless if they needed to work in anything but perfect weather.
Automated hotels alive and well
It isn’t clear if the hotel is going to restock its robot population or if it will move into another niche. The hotel made headlines across the globe when it opened in 2015, not only for its robots but for its unique approach to the environment.
There are many ‘automatic’ hotels around the world. Their approach has been slightly novel though. Instead of relying on dinosaur robots and fluffy assistants, typical ‘auto hotels’ use fairly simple systems that allow guests to check in after proving their identity via their credit cards.
The hotels are still cleaned by humans but reduce human staff by having fully automated check-in, no room service, and keyless access.