Hilton partners with IBM for a concierge robot

Hilton Hotels are confident about the way technology is taking over as the company begins testing an artificial intelligence-powered concierge robot for its chain of hotels in the US.

Together with IBM’s Watson program, the company has brought on board “Connie” – after its founder Conrad Hilton, who has already taken charge at the Hilton McLean Hotel in Virginia. Connie can be seen busy engaging with guests, making restaurants recommendations, guiding them on tourist attractions, hotel information and pretty much anything else you need to know.

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The 23-inch (58-cm) robot is an off-the-shelf Nao machine from French manufacturer Aldebaran Robotics and is linked wirelessly to Watson to understand basic questions about the hotel and also links into travel info service WayBlazer to give details of local attractions and recommendations.

“This project with Hilton and WayBlazer represents an important shift in human-machine interaction, enabled by the embodiment of Watson’s cognitive computing,” said Rob High, chief technology officer of IBM Watson group.
Just like a human, the more guests interact with Connie the better he gets at the job – by learning, adapting and improving its recommendations. The hotel will also have access to a log of the questions asked and Connie’s answers, allowing them to monitor him and make improvements for better guest engagement.

While Connie might be new and exciting for some, he is not going to impress the Japanese. Japan’s Henn-na Hotel, near Nagasaki is staffed almost entirely by robots, including the Nao bot and a life-sized velociraptor used for checking in English patrons. SoftBank recently announced plans to open a cell phone store in Tokyo staffed primarily by Pepper robots, this Spring. These Pepper robots will be given the responsibility to run the cell phone store from March 28 -April 3.

Unfortunately there are no plans to replicate Connie to any other Hilton properties yet. But its success might be an indication that robots might soon take away jobs like hotel concierge, sales persons and fast food cashiers among others.

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