Bye bye, bots! Hotel fires half its robot staff

Many of the unusual robots working at Japan’s Henn na Hotel are now out of work.


Screenshot by Daniel Van Boom/Techhnews

Humans worried about the robot revolution threatening their jobs can relax. Japan’s Henn na Hotel prided itself on its all-robot staff, but it turns out they weren’t up to the job.

Henn na’s robot staff was first employed in 2015 with the aim of becoming “the most efficient hotel in the world.” But four years later, it seems that the 243 robots are less of a novelty and more of a nuisance. And as a result, the Henn na Hotel has fired half of them, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 14.

One guest complained that the virtual assistant robot Churi (that were placed in every hotel room) kept waking him up by saying, “Sorry, I couldn’t catch that. Could you repeat your request?” because of the guest’s snoring. Other guests complained on TripAdvisor that Churi would interrupt their conversations. Eventually, all Churi robots were removed from the rooms.

Churi wasn’t the only robot to be dismissed. Humanoid concierge robots and animatronic dinosaur check-in robots that couldn’t answer basic guest questions without human help were let go. (Reports of clunky lobby robot behavior were already surfacing back when the hotel first opened.) Broken robot dancers in the lobby were shown the door.

Bellhop robots were designed to carry luggage, but they could only move on flat surfaces and could only access a small number of rooms. Their hotel careers were also cut short.

“They were really slow and noisy, and would get stuck trying to go past each other,” Taishi Mito, a previous guest told the Wall Street Journal.

Firing half of the hotel robots might seem harsh, but in the end the day a hotel needs to focus on the comfort of its guests more than the gimmick of robot employees.

“When you actually use robots you realize there are places where they aren’t needed — or just annoy people,” Sawada told the Wall Street Journal.

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