Starwood, one of the world’s largest hotel companies, introduced for the first time two robotic “Botlrs” named A.L.O. in their Cupertino Aloft Hotel.The robotic butlers, built by Savioke, are able to perform tasks in the front of the house and the back of the house, as well as navigate around guests and use elevators. For the most part, it seems that the Botlrs will be delivering things to guest rooms in as actual humans do.Using a combination of sensors and WiFi/4G connectivity to communicate with the hotel and the elevator software, the ROS-powered robot can get to and from the rooms without breaking anything or injuring anyone.
If there is a request from the guests for items like towels or soaps, hotel employees simply load up the robot with the requested items, dial in the room number, and the Botlr handles the rest.When the robot arrives at the room, the guest can enter in a rating on the robot’s touchscreen, or offer a “tip” by tweeting to the hashtag #MeetBotlr.“This is currently a pilot at Aloft Cupertino and is under consideration, though not yet confirmed, to be implemented at Aloft Sunnyvale when it opens at the end of this year,” said Brian McGuinness of Aloft Hotels. “Based on the success of the pilot, we will look to roll out at our nearly 100 hotels around the world in 2015 and beyond.”
The A.L.O. Botlr is actually a repainted, bow-tie-wearing version of a robot called SaviOne developed by California startup Savioke. It's a new company, but it's backed by Google Ventures and led by Steve Cousins, the former CEO of Willow Garage, who is the developer of the PR2 experimental robot. The PR2 looks similar to Botlr, but the latter (like Softbank's Pepper) was designed to look a lot more approachable so as not to scare hotel guests.
Botlr will make its Aloft Hotel debut on August 20th for a pilot program: if successful, all 100+ Aloft Hotels could have one to two at their disposal. Aloft brand's senior vice president Brian McGuinness swears, however, that these robots won't be replacing human employees and will even free them up for other, more important tasks. Starwood has an exclusive deal with Savioke until the end of 2014, though the startup plans to open the pilot to other hotels next year.