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Robotic Hotel Butlers Are on the Rise

Automation is a growing trend in the hospitality industry. To an increasing extent, hotels are swapping human customer service providers with machines. There are self-service check-in kiosks, app-supplied virtual key cards, and, of course, the ubiquitous online hotel-booking platforms. At certain properties, it is entirely possible to complete a stay without ever having a face-to-face interaction with a person employed by the hotel.

Now, meet Botlr the robot butler. The innovative service robot is making its (his?) debut in the high-tech hub of Silicon Valley, naturally. Look for the trashcan-shaped apparatus zooming around the hallways of Aloft Cupertino, a Starwood property. Really, though, “zooming” is slight exaggeration: Botlr travels on little wheels at a human walking pace, and gets from floor to floor by elevator. He’s cute, too. Botlr is outfitted in a vinyl butler uniform with bow tie and name tag. He’s just like a person!

But unlike a person, Botlr doesn’t want your money. The three-foot-tall robot accepts tweets as “tips,” and even has his own hashtag: #MeetBotlr. (I expect to see a number of “Boltr” misspellings in the Twittersphere.) Travelers lamenting the increasing soulless automation of the travel experience can take heart knowing that Botlr is more of a gimmick than a herald of robot-spawned mass unemployment in the service industry. The exact cost of Botlr hasn’t been revealed, but it’s safe to say that this is a very expensive machine that Starwood hopes will pay for itself in press mentions and social-media posts. Botlr is a literal PR machine.

In addition to soliciting tweets, Botlr can bring snacks and amenities such as toothbrushes or newspapers to your room. The robot phones your room when it has arrived outside your door, and it lifts the lid on its storage bin when its sensors indicate that your door has opened. Communicate with Botlr by poking his touch-screen face.

Aloft expects to roll out more Botlrs in coming months. Watch this video to mentally prepare for the robot revolution:

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